Colon cancer made its introduction to me in the fall of 2011. I was having severe upper abdominal and right-sided pain. After a few visits to my primary doctor complaining of such pain, a test was ordered for an Upper GI with a diagnosis of a hiatal hernia and slight Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. After no relief from medication, persistent pain, and several months passing, an endoscopy was performed. At that point, the results were Celiac Disease (a gluten intolerance). Once changing to a gluten free diet and expecting improvement, the pain became more intense. I realized that I still did not have the full accurate diagnosis. Finally in March 2012, ironically “Colon Cancer Awareness” month, I was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer after a colonoscopy was performed. Because of my age at diagnosis, screening was not the first option of testing that a primary doctor considers. My advice, however, is to treat the patient on their symptoms-not their age. I have been working hard at bringing awareness to this disease. It is one of the very few cancers that is preventable and curable if detected at an early stage. Anyone, no matter age, gender…can be a “victim” of this disease. Learn the symptoms and be your own advocate. And, as you celebrate your 50th birthday, treat yourself to a colonoscopy-it just might save your life. Although preparation for a colonoscopy may seem unpleasant, my thought is that it’s nothing compared to a diagnosis of colon cancer. – Diana Welch

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