Colorectal cancer taught me to listen to my body

I started finding blood in my stool in the fall of 2013, but at the
time, it didn’t seem that strange to me. Constipation runs in my
family, and I’ve always been easily constipated. But water’s my
solution to everything, so I figured I just needed to drink more of it.

A few months later, I started feeling really out of breath after
even the slightest activity, and whenever I lifted something heavy,
I’d throw up right afterwards. My family told me I looked really pale,
and I’d lost a lot of weight. Finally, I went to the doctor.

Blood tests showed that my hemoglobin levels were so low, I should
have been in a coma. I was admitted to the hospital right away.
Additional tests showed I was losing blood from my colon, so I
received six units of it immediately, just to replace what I’d lost.

The next day, I had an endoscopy and a colonoscopy to find the source of the bleeding.
The second test revealed a tumor the size of a golf ball in my colon,
which had spread to a few nearby lymph nodes. I was diagnosed with
stage III colorectal cancer.

Why I came to MD Anderson

At first, I couldn’t believe this was really happening. I was only
19 and had just graduated from high school.

But the tumor was real, and my local doctors did micro-surgery through my belly button to remove
it. They also recommended six months of chemotherapy. By this time, I realized I wanted a
second opinion, so I came to MD Anderson. People travel to MD Anderson
from all over the world, and it’s the best, so why wouldn’t I?

At MD Anderson, I met with Bryan Kee, M.D., who recommended the same
treatment as my local doctor. Somehow, I trusted Dr. Kee more, so I
decided to receive my chemotherapy at MD Anderson. My first infusion
took place on New Year’s Eve.

Getting my life back after colorectal cancer

I finished my treatment in June 2014, and I’ve been in remission
ever since. I jumped back into college and will graduate this year
with my teaching certificate.

Now, cancer just feels like a strange dream. That six-month period
was a really weird time in my life, but I believe it made me stronger.
And today, I feel like this is the best I’ve ever been.

My advice for other young people

My advice for other young people with cancer is, “Don’t freak out.”
Getting cancer is a horrible thing, but your loved ones will be there
for you. It may be dark right now, but eventually, the light will
return. It does get better.

Also, your body knows when something’s not right, and it will give
you signs, so pay attention. Take care of yourself, because you’re
worth it. There’s never going to be another you. And water does not
solve everything.

Abigail Pardo will be honored at MD Anderson’s
13th annual SCOPE 5K run on Saturday, March 24, 2018. The
race promotes colorectal cancer screening and honors those diagnosed
with the disease. 

Learn more
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Anderson online
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