I was diagnosed with anal cancer around Feb 6, 2014. Previously, my November 2012 colonoscopy, was clear (so G.I. doctor said), although I was complaining of blood smears, which Dr. said was due to hemorrhoids. I was not comfortable with this local doctor and I persisted to get to a cancer clinic, where I was staged at T3 on March 26, 2014. Two tumors measuring a bit less than 3cm in width, height, and depth were discovered via MRI, and meetings were scheduled with oncology, radiation, surgeon consult and nurse specialists at Juravinski Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario Canada. We believe the only thing that saved me was advocating for myself to attend a cancer hospital and get another doctor!
I had 29 radiation treatments and two chemotherapy infusions of Metamycin and 5FU. It was a hard, painful course of treatment, but with the support of anal cancer online groups, there were many people to talk to! I had no idea that anal cancer was even a thing, and especially the amount the HPV virus could have on anal cancer occurrences. Many members of the online groups gave encouragement on getting through the treatments!
The most beneficial advice was to never stop advocating for yourself! Push and get all the support and medical help you can! The nurses were amazing in dealing with the burns of radiation and pain management. I hope that the Anal Cancer Foundation continues to make the population aware of anal cancer and we can get past the stigma (my first doctor made me feel like I was doing something very wrong!!). We have little control of some of the cancers out there!
Also, I now promote Gardasil vaccines to protect against anal cancers! I was a 61-year-old woman when I was diagnosed and now at 68, and I am still NED for anal cancer. Regretfully, I have recently been diagnosed with bladder cancer, which we suspect has been caused by radiation.
Stay strong and continue to fight! Life is beautiful and you are stronger than you ever thought!
Debra Phillips, Niagara Falls, Canada
Looking for someone to talk to about your anal cancer diagnosis? We are here to help. The Peer to Peer Support Program is a free service provided by the Anal Cancer Foundation that matches anal cancer thrivers (our word for survivors) and caregivers with thriver volunteers and caregiver volunteers.