Being a pre-school teacher, a mom of two teenagers and a devoted wife can make scheduling appointments for yourself a challenge, but Doris Fielder, a colorectal cancer survivor, will tell you it is doable and it’s very important.
Doris had a history of colorectal cancer in her family, but she believed because she lived a healthy lifestyle by eating properly and exercising regularly she was in the clear.
It’s recommended that people without a family history of colorectal cancer be screened at age 50. But, for someone like Doris with a family history of colorectal cancer, screenings are recommended at about age 40.
For 10 years, she avoided a colonoscopy, because she was uncomfortable with the concept of the procedure and how it’s performed. It wasn’t until Doris was past 50 that she decided it was time.
People are constantly told the importance of being screened – get screened for breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer and more. It’s easy to ignore something you’ve heard multiple times over, and it’s even easier to avoid it altogether.
In August 2016, Doris underwent a colonoscopy procedure and discovered that she had polyps in her colon. Most cases of colorectal cancer begin as small, benign clumps of cells or polyps. Over time, these polyps can become cancerous.
Shortly after discovering the polyps, she had a biopsy – the removal of cells or tissues for examination to determine the nature of the polyps. The biopsy confirmed that the polyps were cancerous. Doris’s cancer had grown into the outermost layers of the rectum but had not spread to other areas of the body. She was diagnosed with stage 2 colorectal cancer.
“I was frightened of the diagnosis,” said Doris. “I was afraid of the weakness that was to come and I was afraid because I was no longer in control of my own body.”
Hearing those three words, “you have cancer,” can raise fear and anxiety in anyone. Doris felt all of those things, but she also felt hope, love and strength. Her family was extremely supportive and made sure she was comfortable at home. She felt even more hopeful when she met with Imad Shbeeb, M.D., medical director, Colorectal Surgery Program, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, Long Beach Medical Center, who put her mind at ease about the upcoming procedures.
“I felt very confident there would be a good result,” said Doris.
After meeting with Dr. Shbeeb, it was determined that the best plan was to remove the cancerous polyp with surgery. The surgery was performed using a minimally invasive approach called robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgery, which uses advanced techniques to remove cancerous or non-cancerous polyps through a tiny incision. Dr. Shbeeb performed the surgery successfully within a little over two hours and Doris was in the hospital for as little as three days.
“Doris was a great patient,” said Dr. Shbeeb. “She went through the surgery extremely well. The minimally invasive approach allowed me to accurately perform the planned surgery and allowed Doris to recover quickly.”
To set up the best plan of attack to defeat her cancer, Doris was referred to Sassan Farjami, M.D., oncologist, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, Long Beach Medical Center, who planned out a progressive treatment plan to ensure the cancer does not return. She is undergoing preventative chemotherapy for four to six months, and then will have routine check-ups every three to six months.
“I am extremely lucky that the cancer was detected as quickly as it was,” said Doris.
Since her cancer journey began, Doris has been encouraging everyone to get screened. She encourages her family and friends to be screened for breast cancer, colorectal cancer and any other screenings that are available.