Our mother and best friend, Lori Shelton, died on March 20, 2002 of colon cancer.
Mom was an intelligent, genuine, loving, funny, strong person. She had a zest for life.
Mom’s struggle with colon cancer began long
before we were aware she had the disease. At least seven years prior to her death at age 63, she had been complaining of fatigue. She seemed to get a stomachache whenever she would eat out. Her doctor noted her anemia. Unfortunately, these symptoms were attributed to "getting older", a high-stress job as Executive Manager of an auto dealership, irritable bowels, and not enough iron in her diet.
After several years of treating these symptoms to no avail, her doctor referred her to a gastroenterologist, who suggested a colonoscopy.
August 3, 1999, Dr. Walden found a large malignant tumor at the end of Mom’s colon during the colonoscopy. (A sigmoidoscopy would have failed to find it.) He informed us that the tumor began as a polyp, possibly ten to fifteen years ago.
We were devastated and outraged to learn that had Mom known to undergo a colonoscopy at the recommended age of 50, the disease would never have had the opportunity to advance.
The next two and a half years were full of unimaginable pain and indignities. Mom had surgery on August 13, in which a third of her colon was removed. In October, she began her six months of weekly chemotherapy. She sat for four hours every week with a needle in her arm, was nauseous much of the time, had non-stop diarrhea, fatigue, hair loss, loss of memory due to the drugs, and a forever changed perspective on life.
After enduring these six months, Mom and her oncologist thought she was clear of the disease. She spent the next year recuperating from her treatments and enjoying her new grandson. She was making plans for her future.
Mom's doctor, though, noted a slight increase in her CEA, a tumor marker blood test which she took every three months. She asked for a new colonoscopy, chest x-ray, and CT scan. In May of 2001, her colonoscopy showed no sign of the disease. However, her chest x-ray and CT scan revealed the disease had traveled to her lungs, liver, and throughout her lymph system.
She was left with less than a year to live. We tried frantically to find a cure. We were in contact with doctors in India, professors in England and in Italy, in search of the latest treatments. We were met with the knowledge that nothing could cure our mother. She endured much and died March 20, 2002.
We want Mom to serve as a reminder that your health is your responsibility. Mom lived a clean lifestyle and had no family history of the disease. No one should have to go through the indignities she experienced, and it is even more frustrating when it could have been prevented.
Julie Lin Nichols David A. Goldfarb