Four years ago, Patty Parham was
diagnosed with colon cancer.
During a routine visit to her
doctor in June 2006, she mentioned to the physician that she had seen blood in
A carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA)
test was performed, which measures the amount of the CEA protein in the blood.
This is a protein that may appear in the blood of some people who have certain
kinds of cancers, especially cancers of the large intestine.
The normal CEA number is between 0
and 4. Ms Parham’s first CEA results were slightly high. However, since this
test is not 100 per cent accurate, her doctor recommended that she wait three
months and then take it again. By October her CEA had gone up to 16.
As Ms Parham’s mother is a colon
cancer stage 3 survivor, her next step was to do a colonoscopy – nothing was
found. She then went to an oncologist, who requested more blood work and a CAT
At this point it was confirmed that
she had stage 4 colon cancer which had reached the lymph nodes of the stomach.
Another colonoscopy was performed,
followed by surgery, and by December she had begun chemotherapy treatment.
For a while, Ms Parham went back
and forth to Miami every other week for treatment. She considers herself lucky,
because she seldom felt nauseated and there was no vomiting – though she was
constantly exhausted and her hands were very sensitive.
When telling her story, the now
50-year-old administrator and mother of two boys is positive and upbeat. She
thinks her attitude is a huge part of why she was able to beat the cancer.
Although she felt very scared at first, especially for her two young sons and
the prospect of them having to grow up without their mother, she then became
determined to beat it.
She said the experience made her
realise just how strong she really is and that she has a lot of people who care
When asked if she has a message for
others who are diagnosed with this disease, she replied: “Don’t go online and
look at the statistics. Have a positive attitude and be determined.”
She remembers her doctor telling
her that unless there are 100 out there who are the same age as she is and who
have the same dietary habits as she does, there’s no way to compare herself to
She also has many tips for people,
little things that no one told her, such as “Have your teeth done before you
start chemo.” Patients on chemotherapy treatments are especially susceptible to
decay for several reasons.
Ms Parham is more than willing to
share her story, and her tips, with anyone who is interested. If you would like
to reach her, please contact the Cancer Society at 949-1618.