Stage IV Rectal Cancer
Age at Diagnosis: 29

Karen Mattaliano had rectal bleeding for five years and was misdiagnosed with hemorrhoids before her doctor finally sent her for a sigmoidoscopy that revealed a tumor. When scans showed a lesion on her liver, she was diagnosed with stage IV rectal cancer.

She and her family listened as the doctor told them that there was no hope, but that she would be made as comfortable as possible. With a husband and three year-old son, Karen wanted to fight for her life and needed a doctor who was willing to join her. She found a new doctor who performed surgery to remove the tumor from her rectum.

After surgery, Karen began chemotherapy that shrunk her liver lesion enough to have it surgically removed. She also had radiation to her pelvis, but soon both of her lungs developed cancerous nodules. One nodule was removed immediately, and she started chemotherapy again to shrink the other one. Although Karen’s chemotherapy made her extremely sick, the nodule on her other lung was able to be successfully removed.

Today, Karen is going through menopause brought on by her treatment and will never have more children. She knows that her cancer could have been prevented, but believes that everything happens for a reason. She also feels that it is extremely important for all patients to find a doctor who is willing to take on the fight with them. There is always hope.