Excerpt from Positive Options for Colorectal Cancer, Second Edition
Many of you who have picked up this book have been diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer, know or love someone who has, or live in fear of it because of a family history of the illness. Some of you are interested in maintaining your health in whatever way you can. Others may simply be curious, looking for stories from a patient’s point of view that are true and honest. If you fall into one of these groups, you have opened the right book.
Colon and rectal cancer will affect an estimated 142,820 Americans in 2013, with slightly more cases occurring in women than in men. Fifty thousand men and women die of the disease every year, most having lived with their cancer for several years. Yet even in the face of these alarming statistics, a shroud of secrecy surrounds the illness. Despite our culture’s ability to openly discuss many subjects once considered taboo, far too many of us feel that to speak of the intestine is somehow improper in polite company.
Carol Larson and the cancer survivors who have contributed their stories to this book are courageous enough to ignore such rules. They face the secrecy head-on and stare it down. They help us to understand the disease and to laugh and cry along with them as they describe their very individual and difficult journeys. Carol’s years as an educator serve her well in bringing these stories to us with skill, charm, insight, and humor. I have rarely known anyone who was able to describe with such perceptivity and intelligence her own experience undergoing cancer treatment. Carol and the other survivors’ collective experiencesand a lot of very useful medical and scientific informationis presented in this book in a clear and readable fashion.
As a medical oncologist, I have counseled hundreds of patients with colon and rectal cancer as they faced decisions and found their way through today’s bewildering medical system. Perhaps more than is the case with most other cancers, up-to-date treatment of colorectal cancer requires a multidisciplinary ap¬proach, which means that many different types of medical doctors and professionals are involved at every step of the way. The team may require a general physician, a gastroenterologist, a general surgeon, a surgeon who specializes in colorectal diseases, a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, an enterostomal therapist, oncology nurses skilled in delivering chemotherapy, and radiation oncology technicians and nurses. Ms. Larson met with and interviewed professionals from all of these disciplines and more.
Nowadays, with our wealth of online resources, it is easy to find factual information about illness and health. In addition to what can be found on the Internet, a flood of health-related information is available in nearly any hospital or library in the country. However, what is not so easy to come by is the wisdom to put it all together for others who need assistance. Positive Options for Colorectal Cancer describes a journey into hostile, foreign territory. It is territory I know well, and one through which I have tried to guide many others. A guidebook is always a useful item to pack on a journey, and here is one of the best.
-Kathleen Ogle, M.D.
Positive Options for Colorectal Cancer is a book for patients, written by patients. It is loaded with practical tips from people who have experienced the problems firsthand. In the book we ask the following questions: What kinds of challenges does a person encounter when first diagnosed with colorectal cancer? What can help when going through invasive tests, negotiating with doctors, and dealing with unfamiliar equipment, drugs, and forms of treatment? How can a person cope with the depressing thoughts that accompany a life-threatening disease? How can people better communicate their needs during a crisis? Does radiation hurt? What things are helpful to consider before surgery? What can help you get through the experience of chemotherapy? What is an ostomy and, if you need one, how does it change your life? What happens to family life and sexuality when cancer strikes and afterward? What is it like to be a cancer survivor?
The technical information contained in this book has been reviewed by the following:
* doctors from Colon and Rectal Surgery Associates, Ltd.
* oncologists from the Minnesota Oncology/Hematology Professional Association
* Anna Leininger, M.S., genetic counselor from the Minnesota Colorectal Cancer Initiative
* Jane Nielsen, oncology nurse and president of ACE
* Vicki Haugen and Julie Powell, enterostomal nurses from Fairview Hospital, Minneapolis
These health-care professionals were contacted to answer some of the questions we, as patients, wondered about but never asked our doctors when we went through the experience of living day and night with cancer. Some of the information contained in this book is new, such as the effectiveness of “virtual colonoscopy” and the newest findings on genetics and chemotherapy. Progress in treating colorectal cancer will continue; new ways of looking at the disease will develop. What remains the same are the concerns of patients and their families as they find themselves encountering a diagnosis of colorectal cancer.
This is a book for cancer patients, for people who love and care for those patients, and for people just seeking information. It is about exercising positive options to cope with colorectal cancer and to overcome difficulties, and it is about being transformed by the experience.