Archive | November, 2015

Staying Positive While Facing Stage 4 Rectal Cancer, With Chere Garcia

Chere Garcia

Staying Positive While Facing Stage 4 Rectal Cancer, With Chere Garcia

Chere and her family have had one hell of a year. In May 2014 Horacio’s mother, Aurora, was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was heartbreaking news to the family. Chere took initiative to care for aurora by being present day to day, cooking for her, helping with her medications and doctors appointments and so much more. Soon the family would learn that Aurora’s cancer had spread. Knowing that they didn’t have much more time with Aurora, Chere and Horacio decided to get married so that she could be in attendance. They had a beautiful wedding in August 2014. Aurora’s health continued to decline and she passed away in October 2014. Chere cared for her until she took her last breath. In November 2014 Horacio was laid off of his job. Chere has been the sole provider ever since. As you can imagine this is very unfortunate, but they just kept pushing forward and doing the best they could. It was around this time that Chere started experiencing changes in her health. She had decreased energy levels, no appetite, and changes to her gastrointestinal system. These symptoms progressively began to worsen. Everyone around her assumed that these symptoms were stress related. Still mourning the loss of her mother in law, the pressure of providing for a family, and other day to day stressors would do that to anyone. She is always taking care of those around her, and in turn she was neglecting herself. On April 23rd 2015, our lives were changed forever. Chere went in for a colonoscopy and endoscopy. The endoscopy was normal, but the colonoscopy was not. I think everyone has known someone who has had cancer. What we never want to think about is the day that one of our loved ones is diagnosed with it. Chere had a mass in her rectum. The mass was too large to advance the scope further to evaluate the rest of the colon. She was then sent for a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis that day to see if the cancer had spread anywhere else, and scheduled an appointment with a colo-rectal surgeon the following day. The next 24 hours until her follow up appointment and waiting for the results of the CT scan were the longest hours of our lives. But finally the time arrived. The surgeon discussed that the biopsy results showed that she has rectal adenocarcinoma, the most common form of rectal cancer. The CT scan showed the rectal mass and questionable spots on the liver. He explained that these could be just cysts or metastasis of the rectal cancer. She will need to complete a PET scan for further evaluation, and will be meeting with an oncologist on Monday. The oncologist will be able to provide more answers, support, and confirm the plan of care. Since Chere is only 34 the health care providers have been very reassuring that she can be treated aggressively to fight this horrible disease. Please keep Chere and our family in your thoughts and prayers. She is so very strong for her loved ones, and now she needs to know she has an army supporting her in her fight against rectal cancer.

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Colon Cancer Alliance September Hero of the Month, Marisa Perez

Maricel Perez

Colon Cancer Alliance Hero of the Month, Maricel Perez

Depending on who you are, you may call her Marisa, “mom” or “The Colon Chick!” Marisa Perez has a passion for colon cancer prevention and an enthusiasm that can get anyone excited about screening. The mother of two has been running a colon cancer screening program for the last nine years and shows no signs of slowing down. This month, she organized a successful Screen This Too! luncheon where she stressed the importance of protecting all of your assets this October—including your colon. This dedication to prevention is just one of the many reasons we’re honored to spotlight Marisa as our Hero of the Month.

Tell us a little about yourself!

I’m a single wrestling mom of two awesome boys (ages 20 and 15) and during the week I manage patients with chronic illnesses. I’ve been a part of this Chronic Disease Team for more than a year and have been extremely successful in keeping patients out of the hospital. For leisure time, I love to watch MMA, hike, go to the gym and spend my weekends watching my sons’ wrestling tournaments.

When did you become so passionate about colon cancer prevention?

I started working with Neal Shindel, M.D. in 2006. His passion for preventing colon cancer was contagious and after learning how preventable this disease is, I quickly became an advocate. We’ve held successful community outreach events, done a commercial for colon cancer prevention and worked with the mayor to declare our city a “Colon Cancer Free Zone” in 2009—and that’s just the start!

A few years after working with Dr. Shindel, my little cousin died from colon cancer at just 26 years old. This turned my colon cancer fever into overdrive and I’ve been spreading the word ever since.

How did you get the nickname “The Colon Chick”?

That’s a funny story! I was invited to one of our OB/GYN’s 50th surprise party. For a gift, I naturally wrapped up a box of MoviPrep. He opened it and said, “What else would my colon chick give me?” It was until then that I realized how many physicians referred to me as their “Colon Chick.”  I proudly wear that title as a badge of honor!

You recently held an awesome Screen This Too! event. How was it? Oct. HOTM Pic

This lecture was a very proud moment for me. Not only have I had a cousin pass from colon cancer, but I also have a cousin that had to have a double mastectomy a few years ago. Being able to talk about breast cancer and colon cancer awareness in one lecture was something I would do again and again. The lecture was initially meant for my immediate department, which is only about 15 people, but it quickly grew. More than 50 people attended!

After the lecture, I received emails from my coworkers thanking me for putting the program together. They also stopped me in the hallway to tell me how much they learned. Additionally, the education department asked me to do another lecture for a monthly RN meeting, which will be held this month.

What do you want people to know about colon cancer?

What I stress most when speaking to people is that colon cancer is preventable and the screening prep has gotten a heck of a lot more tolerable. I’ll be in line at the supermarket and I somehow am able to talk about prevention with strangers. What’s my message? Colon cancer is preventable. I’m at the mall checking out—what’s my message? Colon cancer is preventable. I’m out at dinner with my boys—what’s my message? That we have the “power of prevention” and I could help them prevent colon cancer too!

What advice do you have for others who want to spread the word about prevention?

Striking up a conversation about getting your rear checked out is not an easy thing to do. When speaking about this disease, you have to think out of the box. Using the “Screen this Too!” undies was a great way to “Break the Ice” (that was another slogan I used and received awards for). You have to break down barriers and try to make it something that is easier to speak about. I made stickers that said “Cancer is also blue, so screen your booty too.” As silly as it may sound, things like that work!

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