COVID-19 and Colorectal Cancer Get The Facts

Aneta’s Story

I am grateful. I am grateful for the storm and I am grateful for all the moments I’ve had since my cancer diagnosis February 2019. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year since the day that changed me forever. I’m incredibly thankful to my husband, my children, family, friends, colleagues, work family, community and medical professionals who continue to ignite the battle spark, always there to remind me why this battle must be fought and won.

Having gone through two immigration journeys in my life, working hard to find safety, peace and happiness, in the winter of 2019, I was pretty content with how blessed I was and the path that I was on. My eldest child was in third year university, my middle one about to graduate grade 12 and my youngest getting ready to get drafted to the OHL I was working my dream job as part of a regional school board department focusing on equity education and life was very busy but very good. Yes I was exhausted from running around trying to balance work and personal life, a million different schedules, responsibilities, commitments and I was happy doing all of that and more. At that time, my father in law was battling Mesothelioma and being ultra-acute to possible health issues, my husband became really keen on getting screened for anything imaginable. He took me along on this journey of his and booked me in on a cancellation for a colonoscopy consult. It’s unexplainable because I don’t really know how I ended up in this doctor’s office as it wasn’t my plan. If anything, I almost cancelled the appointment because I had a work commitment that I felt terribly guilty about not keeping. Thankfully, I didn’t. Fate.

On a winter February afternoon in 2019, days after my 45th birthday, I was unexpectedly diagnosed with stage 3b colorectal cancer. In short, I went through chemotherapy and radiation and had a complete response to treatment. If I didn’t keep my doctor’s appointment which led to a colonoscopy, the story could have had a very different ending.

The truth is that I remember every single day of the 28 day aggressive radiation/chemotherapy treatment and the multitude of hospital visits and appointments. I remember every feeling, doubt, hope, question (and I had many questions…which I unapologetically asked), smell, taste, and moments too many to count. At that time, I knew that I had a choice to make and I could either choose to sink into my vulnerability or use it to float and rise above. I recognize the privilege I have in making this choice and I hope to use it to help others who find themselves in unimaginable circumstances, trying to hang on to life, even if only by a single thread. So I chose to rise above and I read every self-help book imaginable to maintain a positive spirit and vision. I truly believe that your mind will always believe everything you tell it. For me, this was what made it all possible.

I’m currently part of a non-operative management clinical trial and through close observation and ongoing screening I’m hoping that the cancer won’t come back. My last scan showed no evidence of disease and for that I’m extremely grateful. I’m committed to leading my life with kindness, positivity and love and to simply show up every single day. My belief in “paying it forward” is stronger now than ever before. What we do matters and how we do it makes all the difference. I’ve learned that life does not always hand us the easy road and we are certainly not born knowing the best way to navigate the worst circumstances. I am who I am today because of all of my experiences, especially the challenging ones, which made me stronger through my vulnerability in sharing my story and celebrating my imperfect self. So today, I choose to find joy in simple moments, not waiting for life to get easier, simpler, better. After all, with the onset of COVID19 this year, I consider myself the lucky one as I was already prepped to live with and manage uncertainly. It’s so awesome that I got the gift of having a head start in this healing journey which presently in one way or another, the entire world seems to have also taken on!

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