In nursing school Suzie Hill met a gastroenterology nurse whom she liked, so she decided to become one too. Years later, it was Suzie’s experience that told her she should talk to a doctor when she found blood in her stool, but she blew it off. Her husband insisted that she talk to a gastroenterologist at her office, and she was scheduled for a colonoscopy the following week.
Suzie was embarrassed about having a colonoscopy at work, but her biggest concern turned out to be a blessing. Her doctor found a tumor and she woke from her colonoscopy surrounded by her husband and the entire staff. Suzie was quickly scheduled for a CT scan and surgery, and was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer at 37.
Suzie struggled with what to tell her young children about her cancer, knowing that they would probably hear someone talking about it. She decided that honesty is the best policy and explained that the medicine was making her sick, but it was also killing the cancer.
Suzie’s community supported her tremendously during her treatment, and she believes that her experience showed her children how important it is to give back. She feels compelled to share her story with her patients, hoping that it will help them deal with their own diagnoses.
Suzie’s story as told by Suzie
As a nurse, working in a colonoscopy center, I never imagined that my role would quickly change from Nurse to patient. I had experienced a large amount of blood with a single bowel movement, and realized that I had heard many of my patients report this similar symptom, only later to find out they had colon cancer.
A few days after witnessing this blood, I talked to my co-worker about it and before I knew it I was doing a hallway consult with one of the Gastroenterologist. We both decided that a colonoscopy would be great to discover the source of this blood, although I was only 37 years old with no family history of Colon Cancer.
I was then faced with a big dilemma. Do I have my colonoscopy where I work? My biggest dilemma became the biggest blessing. As I was waking up from my procedure I remembered all of my coworkers, my husband, and physician at my bedside with a concerned but caring attitude. I knew they had found something, and I cannot say how thankful I was to be amongst those who truly cared about me, and had already started making arrangements for the next step in my care.
My journey into colon Cancer started very quickly after diagnosis and within one week’s time I was diagnosed, had a CT scan, surgery to remove 18 inches of my colon, and a confirmed pathology report showing Stage 3 Cancer. As a mother of 3 children (7,9,11 at time of diagnosis) I was struggling with how to tell them that I was diagnosed with cancer. I ultimately felt that honesty was the best way to approach this because we knew the months ahead of us would be long.
During Chemotherapy and the rough spots, our community rallied around us, giving us support that was unconceivable. The children were supported with much love, but soon after a few treatments of chemotherapy my kids questioned why I was getting sicker instead of better. We were able to explain to them that the chemotherapy was making me sick but killing the Cancer. We were so glad that we were honest with our children. They have more compassion when they hear of other friends struggling through tough times. In fact our family motto has become “What can we do for others who are going through difficult struggles with cancer.”
My journey is not over. I am on a mission, to increase awareness of Colon Cancer in young adults, and to provide support for others. God has given my entire family a second chance of helping others if only in a small way, because reaching out to others can make a difference, even if it is only encouragement.