By Dalton Godbey
Southern KY AHEC Communications Intern
Jamie Waddle remembers August 6, 2014, very well.
While watching her son’s football practice, Waddle consulted with another parent who happened to be a nurse. Waddle informed her of the stomach pain and irregular bowel movements she had been experiencing, with hopes of getting some advice to resolve the dilemma. The nurse advised her to go directly to the emergency room.
A colonoscopy a few weeks later revealed that Jamie Waddle had colorectal cancer. The doctors discovered a large part of her sigmoid colon covered in cancerous polyps. She was 36.
Colon cancer strikes more than 130,000 people in the U.S. and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among cancers that affect both men and women. In 2013, Kentucky had the highest incidence of colon cancer in the nation, and the fourth highest mortality rate. According to the Kentucky Cancer Registry, Estill County alone has had more than 131 colon cancer cases since 2000.
This summer, the Southern Kentucky Area Health Education Center and the Colon Cancer Prevention Project are teaming up to share survivor stores in southern Kentucky communities to bring awareness to early detection.
From the day she arrived at the hospital at the advice of her friend, Waddle’s road to her diagnosis wasn’t a clear path. Doctors advised her to schedule a colonoscopy but in the meantime prescribed medication that seemed to resolve the issue.
Feeling much better over the next few days, Waddle considered not getting the colonoscopy. But considering that her mother was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2001, she decided to proceed.
“I was already back in my daily routine, and the symptoms had stopped. But since my mom had colon cancer, I decided it was a good idea for me to at least get checked. But I didn’t expect anything at all, I felt fine.” Waddle said.
But the colonoscopy revealed colon cancer. Surgery was scheduled within a few days.
“I was only 36. I had a family to think about, a family who needed me,” Waddle said. “I wanted it taken care of immediately.”
Shortly after her surgery, Waddle was screened for Lynch Syndrome, an inherited condition that increases the risk of colon cancer and other cancers, and the test came back positive. Approximately 3% to 5% of all cases of colorectal cancer are thought to be due to Lynch syndrome.
Families that have Lynch syndrome usually have more cases of colon cancer than would typically be expected. Lynch syndrome also causes colon cancer to occur at an earlier age than it might in the general population.
Waddle is cancer-free today but is at increased risk for other types of cancers. Because Lynch is hereditary, Waddle has persistently encouraged her family, especially her sister, to be screened for cancers and Lynch Syndrome. Thankfully, she did not have Lynch. Her family continues to get regular colonoscopies and so far, all have been free of colon cancer. Possibly, Waddle’s efforts in awareness and encouragement can be partly credited to a healthy family.
Her early detection of the colon cancer potentially saved her life, and she will remain diligent while appreciating every day.
“Get checked,” Waddle advises. “It is more than worth it. Live every day like it is your last because you never know what can happen.”
Visit www.kickingbutt.org for more information about colon cancer, including symptoms and screening options. If you are experiencing any symptoms, you should consult a physician. For further information, contact the Estill County Health Department at (859) 623-7312 or call the Colon Cancer Prevention Project Hotline at 1-(800)-841-6399.