An Invincible Spirit
Michelle Fournier with Emily.
For Michelle Fournier, her colonoscopy was the easiest test of the last four years.
Trouble began when her husband, Bob, suffered a serious heart attack. He was rushed to Abington Memorial Hospital where the cardiac team successfully performed an infarct angioplasty.
"It was a wake-up call," Michelle remembers. "We were busy taking care of everything but our health. Bob suggested I get a full checkup, too."
When blood tests revealed she had severe anemia, Michelle's family physician sent her for a colonoscopy. The gastroenterologist brought her news that couldn't wait. "He told me he was very sorry, but there was a large tumor in my colon." Believing it was malignant, he recommended she see a surgeon immediately.
"I had no symptoms," Michelle adds. "First Bob's heart attack, and then I'm on my way to cancer surgery. It was devastating."
After surgery to remove the mass, Michelle was referred to The Rosenfeld Cancer Center. Her oncologist recommended a six-month course of chemotherapy. Before beginning, all patients meet with an oncology nurse.
Michelle wondered if she had the endurance for such a regimen. "My nurse was such an angel. She said she could tell I was a very determined person. The fact that I came to see her meant I could do it.
Each time she had a session, Michelle needed verification for her time off from work. "Even the receptionist at the Center was there for me. She always had my paperwork ready as I went out the door."
Fate wasn't finished with the Fourniers. Three months after Michelle finished her chemotherapy, Bob was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer that offers very few treatment options. He lost his battle with the disease last fall.
"Whenever I thought, ‘why me?', I would remember that for 20 years, we never had a major illness in our family. So we had a good ride for a very long time."
Now, her first grandchild, five-month-old Emily, an Abington Memorial Hospital baby, is the joy at the end of a long journey.
A True Advocate
Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death next to lung cancer. Michelle Fournier wants everyone to know the importance of screening. "I've told everyone I know how important the test is. It's not painful. The day-before preparation is a little uncomfortable," she says, "but catching cancer early is key to successful treatment."
"Get this routine test. It may help you know your grandchildren."
The American Cancer Society recommends that men and women with no family history or symptoms begin having routine colonoscopies at age 50. Times for repeat testing are based on whether you have an average, increased, or significant risk for colorectal cancer (such as polyps or close relatives that have had the disease). Your family physician or gastroenterologist can best tell you.