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Meet Alexisrj

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While everyone is taking part in summer staycations, let's meet a new community member.
Let me introduce you to Alexis, known in our community as alexisrj . Read about her colon cancer experience and her terrific supportive family.

Hello! My name is Alexis and I am 36 years old, married to my husband for 7 years now and we have 3 kids (ages 4.5, 3, and 1 now) and our dog, Luna. I work as a midwife and am always in awe of the strength, resilience and beauty in pregnancy, childbirth and growing families. I was diagnosed with colon cancer after a colonoscopy on April 16, 2020 at the age of 35. My youngest child was 9 months old when I was diagnosed. I had intermittent blood mixed in with my stool that was chalked up to hemorrhoids due to my age and having recently had my third baby. After my colonoscopy, a CT scan and liver ultrasound were done and were both clear. I had my sigmoid colon removed on May 8, 2020. I spent 4 days in the hospital. No one could visit me or send anything, but they did have free Wi-fi so I spent a lot of time watching Netflix, video chatting with friends and family and playing online board games. My surgeon and the hospital staff were absolutely amazing and really made everything go as smoothly as I could have imagined. I was also breastfeeding at the time, and everyone was so supportive and helpful so that I could pump in the hospital and take the milk home for my baby!

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My tumour was around 2-3 cm in size and after the pathology, it was found to be Stage 1 (T2N0M0). According to my surgeon, “I’m done”. He referred me to the Cancer Clinic in my area and they refused my referral as there was nothing they would do for me as far as any treatments. I just need to do my follow-up colonoscopy in 1 year (and every 2 years after that) as well as eventually see genetics for further testing. I am not quite sure I will ever believe him that I’m “done”, but I am trying to focus on the information I have right now and trust what my doctor is telling me! I am still off work while my new colon attachment sorts itself out but I hope to get back to work soon

One thing I want everyone to know about having cancer is....

It is so important to advocate for yourself - if something you are being told doesn’t sit right with you, ask questions, get a second opinion, do what you can to have your concerns addressed.

Also, you are never alone! Once you start telling people you have cancer, it is kind of shocking to learn how many other people are or have dealt with cancer themselves! When I started telling people, it seemed like everyone had a mother or brother/sister or uncle or someone with colon cancer. I found so much support in the most unexpected places.

The "words of wisdom" that helped me were....
Focus on what I know to be true today, don’t worry about something that might (or might not) be true tomorrow. There are no guarantees in life, ever. Sure I could die from cancer, but I could also die in a car crash or a shark attack or any other number of ways. It is not helpful to worry about the other 1001 ways I may or may not die, and it is not helpful to spend all my time worrying about cancer either. (Easier said than done for me though!) Strangely, I found this really helped put things into perspective for me.

I found it helpful when I was worrying about a test or procedure to ask myself, “is there anything else I can do about it today”? If not, I need to move on, distract, focus on something else. Whatever is there, it is already there - with or without the test/procedure. The only difference is that when it’s found, I can start to deal with it.

I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that even though there is no explanation (so far) for why I got colon cancer at the age of 35 with no risk factors and no family history, that there is a reason why it happened. I don't have to like it and I can still be upset about it but I find that has made it easier to accept it. Maybe one of my siblings or children will have a polyp found early and removed before it becomes cancerous, maybe my story will give someone else hope or support on their cancer journey, or maybe I will be inspired/motivated to make positive changes in my life when I would have otherwise remained stagnant…. I know that the effects of my cancer experience don’t end with me and I hope that something positive can come out of this.

My biggest support is my husband. Due to Covid and not knowing what stage my cancer was for over a month, he couldn’t get any help from family or friends so he took on pretty much everything while I was in the hospital and recovering: taking care of the house, the kids, doing all the cooking and grocery pick-ups, as well as caring for me after I got home.

I also had amazing support from my family and friends. My sister organized a meal train and we had dinner dropped off on our doorstep most days in the first few weeks after my surgery. This was so incredibly helpful for our family.

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My hobbies/interests include travelling, reading, sewing, crafting, and after my cancer experience, they did change - I actually had time to do them!! Being off work and forced to stay home (close to a bathroom!) most of the time, I was forced to slow down and I’ve started to read more again and I’ve been sewing almost every day after the kids go to bed! (I’m running out of things to make… and fabric!) I love anything creative: crafts, sewing, painting, knitting/crochet, jewelry-making, or refinishing old/worn-out furniture!

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I got my pilot’s license before my driver’s license, on my 16th birthday. My family and I love travelling and I have been to over 15 countries and almost all Canadian provinces/territories! I am only missing the Northwest Territories… I work as a midwife and would absolutely love to do a locum up north so maybe once the pandemic and my health settle, I’ll be able to make a trip up there!


CancerConnection has been so invaluable to me during this experience. There is always someone there to offer support, advice, or just listen. I had participated in the Peer Support program as well and when that program was cancelled, I found that CancerConnection continued to provide that peer support, just in a different way. I find it so helpful when I have questions and I am always happy to help others in any way that I can.

I used to think that having cancer was one of the worst things that could happen. While there is no doubt that it has the potential to be extremely devastating and debilitating both physically and emotionally, it can also bring about some pretty amazing things. I have met so many wonderful people and made lifelong connections that would never have happened if I hadn't had cancer. I have learned (pretty quickly, I might add) who the strongest supports in my life are and what the most important things in my life are.


Thank you so much for sharing Alexis and for the support you give in our community.




Comments

alexisrj‍ 
Thank you for sharing your story and your family pics!
Our diagnosis’s sound very similar and I share my story as much as possible as well. It lets people know that they are a lot of positive stories out there.
Just had my first colonoscopy after surgery and all’s  clear, don’t go back until next Sept then it’s every 3 years.
I found my cancer experience “reset” my life and made me focus on the important things like my kids and family.
This is a great forum, so many helpful people who have gone through similar experiences.

Jeff
 
  • Posted Fri 11 Sep 2020 10:52 PM EDT
It's so important to hear the positive stories and to take whatever positives can come out of this kind of situation! Our situations do seem very similar and your posts/advice have been very helpful for me. Glad your scope was clear! 
  • Posted Fri 11 Sep 2020 11:29 PM EDT
I tried to post.....hope you can see it/above

from Whitelilies
  • Posted Wed 12 Aug 2020 07:21 PM EDT
I did see your post Whitelilies‍ Lillian :) Thank-you for reading! And I can't argue with you.... Riley really is adorable!! ;)
  • Posted Fri 11 Sep 2020 09:46 PM EDT
Gah, I have my head buried in the strange corners of this site and so miss so many of the wonderful people that come here and the amazing stories that they have to tell. Thank you for sharing yours with us. And thank you for the incredible support that you are providing to other colon cancer patients.  (And folks in general.)

Angus
  • Posted Wed 12 Aug 2020 11:21 AM EDT
WestCoastSailor‍ thank-you for your comments! This site really is full of wonderful supportive people! :)
  • Posted Fri 11 Sep 2020 09:45 PM EDT
I read every word you shared in your intro.
Your photos are lovely BUT the baby is the CUTEST EVER!!!
Thank you for sharing your journey and opening up to us all, about YOU!
YOU ROCK!

Regards
Whitelilies

Lillian
  • Posted Wed 12 Aug 2020 07:21 PM EDT
alexisrj‍  So lovely to get to know the “real” you and your family.  
This thing called cancer has many facets and one of the most important to me is how many caring people there are here.   Your first post to now seems a long time but is ,in reality, fairly recent and you have reached out and supported so many others in that time. For being a true caring and sharing member of the community thank you.

Hugs.

MCoaster

ps.   When I was at university I took flying lessons until my cash ran out!   I still remember the feeling of literally leaving my worries on the ground and feeling so free.  Ah, those were the days ...............M
 
  • Posted Wed 12 Aug 2020 12:40 AM EDT
Thank-you MCoaster‍! It really seems like so long ago since I first posted on here but you're right... only a few months! That's so neat you learned to fly as well!
  • Posted Fri 11 Sep 2020 09:42 PM EDT
alexisrj‍ 

Welcome..So nice to hear your story and what a lovely looking family.

Wonderful that your health team believe you are “ done “. I understand your doubts, I think we all go their at times.

I want to acknowledge your wise decision to NOT let your life be ruled by cancer. I agree we the need to live and enjoy what we are living today. Such wise actions from someone who has faced your diagnosis at your age.

I think in the future you will look back and be so thankful that you didn’t waste a day on what if’s.

I am 4 years post diagnosis of a poor prognosis and I made a deliberate decision not to let whatever time I had to be consumed by cancer. I have enjoyed every minute and plan to continue to live my life with cancer being only a small part of it.
 
  • Posted Tue 11 Aug 2020 10:53 PM EDT
I really appreciate your kind words Faye‍! Still so hard to turn away from the "what ifs" but I am making an effort every day! 
  • Posted Fri 11 Sep 2020 09:31 PM EDT

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