Michele passed unexpectedly in 2020. She was a fierce proponent for improving the patient experience, known for her cheeky sense of humor and for being unabashedly outspoken about the need to represent the voices of thrivers in all aspects of research, treatment, and care.
Michele's story follows below:
My name is Michele and I was diagnosed with stage 4 anal cancer in February 2010. I asked my OB-Gyn doctor to check what I thought was a hemorrhoid flare up at my routine pap smear visit, and discovered it was actually two tumors. My constant sciatica was found to be caused by a golf ball sized tumor growing out of my sacral bone. Not only was I diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, I had a rare form of metastasis located in my bone. After surgery to remove the sacral tumor I received simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation; two rounds of chemo lasting 96 hours each and seven weeks of radiation that resulted in my hospitalization for the last two weeks of treatment for pain control. I baffled them all when I went into remission last year; I have just passed my one-year anniversary. The thing about anal cancer is that it is a cancer 'below the belt'. Not only is it rare, there is definitely an unwarranted shame attached to it. I overcame the shame and humiliation and decided to fight the stigma. I did not have one risk factor when I was diagnosed. I thought I had a hemorrhoid and sciatic pain. I was wrong. My 'well woman' doctor appointment saved my life! My current goal is to raise awareness for not only anal cancer but all cancers that exist 'below the belt'. People need to be educated. Doctors need to be screening patients. I am talking and I can’t shut up…I won’t shut up! My hope is that no one ever suffers from anal cancer and if they do they get early diagnosis and treatment. I started a blog that logs my entire story from diagnosis to today. My hope is to shatter the stigma and fight the loneliness that accompanies this devastating type of cancer. You can visit my blog at: Ihavebuttwhat.tumblr.com
I am standing up to save lives,
In June 2020, Michele passed away. We will always remember her for her fierce advocacy on behalf of anal cancer thrivers. You can read more of Michele's story in her book.
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.