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Support & Treatment Helps Patient Overcome Colorectal Cancer

sue godersky colorectal cancer survivorSue Godersky was 46 years old and had finally gotten her health on track, shedding nearly 110 pounds over the course of two years. “I was addicted to exercise; I loved it,” she says.

But all the diet and exercise in the world hadn’t prepared her for the next challenge she would face – a cancer diagnosis.

Cancer Diagnosis

Shortly after achieving her weight loss goal, Sue began to experience intermittent rectal bleeding that eventually became more frequent and worrisome. The initial diagnosis was an internal hemorrhoid and a colonoscopy was scheduled. As it would turn out, Sue was suffering from rectal cancer.

“I was completely shocked by the news,” she says. “I was only 46 years old with no family history of colorectal cancer.”

Treatment and Surgery

In the immediate days following her cancer diagnosis, Sue met with a colorectal surgeon, a medical oncologist and radiation oncologist. From September to November 2014, she underwent chemotherapy and radiation. And on December 10, 2014, just three days before her 47th birthday, she underwent surgery to remove the cancerous tumor.

Sue recalls waking up post-surgery and hearing the news that due to the size and location of the tumor, her rectum, anal sphincter and anal opening had to be removed. And while she was able to retain her colon, reattachment surgery was not a viable option. The devastating result was reliance on a colostomy bag for the rest of her life.

Recovery

In the months to follow, Sue struggled with depression despite being told by her medical team she was lucky her cancer hadn’t spread further. “I was mad and sad all at the same time. I was mad at my surgeon for telling me I was lucky when I was bound to a colostomy bag for the rest of my life,” she says.

Sue credits the unwavering support of her family and online support groups for saving her mental health. “My husband has been so accepting and supportive,” she says. “This entire experience has brought us closer together.”

Freedom and the New Normal

In August 2015, Sue gained a bit more freedom when she was introduced to bowel irrigation (flushing warm water into her bowel through the stoma). “Irrigation really opened up my world. It has allowed me to maintain a normal wardrobe, to travel, exercise and continue to work as a nurse at Columbia St. Mary’s – Ozaukee Campus,” Sue says.

Despite recent setbacks, Sue remains grateful and optimistic. “I choose to be happy. My goal is to prevent this from happening to others. Anyone age 50 or older with a family history of colorectal cancer or having symptoms should see their doctor and have a colonoscopy,” she says.

And on December 13, 2017, Sue looks forward to celebrating her 50th birthday cancer-free.

Ways to Help Prevent Common Basketball Injuries

Should you be concerned about you or your child playing basketball? Learn about the most common basketball injuries and ways to prevent them on The Edge blog from Midwest Orthopedic Specialty Hospital.With college basketball heating up and Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker’s second ACL tear, basketball injuries may be top of mind.

Should you be concerned about you or your child playing the sport?

We help break down the most common basketball injuries and ways to help prevent them.

COMMON BASKETBALL INJURIES

ANKLE SPRAINS

From rolling an ankle to accidentally getting stepped on, high and low ankle sprains are some of the most prevalent basketball injuries. If pain, swelling and bruising occurs, further evaluation may be necessary to rule out fractures or serious tears.

JAMMED FINGERS

A very common hand injury in basketball, jammed fingers occur when the ball contacts the end of the finger—causing significant swelling of a single knuckle or joint.

KNEE SPRAINS, STRAINS & TEARS

Forceful stopping, accelerating, cutting and pivoting places a lot of pressure on knee ligaments and puts them at greater risk for injury. Severe, season-ending knee injuries can include ACL, MCL and meniscus tears.

OVERUSE INJURIES

Minor trauma to soft tissue causes overuse injuries, and it’s common with young athletes who play sports year round without any rest in between seasons. Shin splints, jumper’s knee (patellar tendonitis) and little leaguers’ elbow or shoulder are just a few types.

INJURY PREVENTION TIPS

  • Complete a pre-season physical
  • Strengthen leg muscles to better support your knees
  • Warm up with stretching prior to training or playing
  • Wear supportive shoes with a higher profile around the ankle and skid-resistant soles
  • Check the court for slippery spots or debris before playing
  • Use proper techniques to avoid hand and wrist injuries

Your ankles, hands and knees have complex joints—making them more vulnerable to injury. If you or your child experiences a basketball injury, it’s best to seek care by an orthopedic physician at Affinity or Ministry.

Colon Cancer Warning Signs and Screening Options

colon cancer warning

If you are 50 years or older you need to get tested for colon cancer, earlier if you have symptoms such as rectal bleeding, change in bowel habits, or have a family history of colon cancer. You have the power to PREVENT colon cancer—not just find it early.

Early colorectal cancers usually have no symptoms—making regular screenings essential. However, if you start to experience one or more symptoms, you should talk to your doctor about the screening options available to you.

Signs and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
  • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Blood in the stool, which may make it look dark
  • Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

Colorectal cancers can often bleed into the digestive tract. While sometimes the blood can be seen in the stool or make it look darker, often the stool looks normal. But over time, the blood loss can build up and can lead to low red blood cell counts (anemia). Sometimes the first sign of colorectal cancer is a blood test showing a low red blood cell count.

Patient Story: Sue was healthy and didn’t have any family history of colorectal cancer. And yet, at 47 years old, she was diagnosed with the cancer. Click here to read Sue’s inspiring story of how she fought through this cancer and why you should get screened.

Colon Cancer Screening Options

  • Sigmoidoscopy: This is the same as a colonoscopy except only about the first two feet of the colon are examined. Only the lower portion of the bowel needs to cleanse. This is usually completed by taking several enemas prior to the test. Sedation is not usually given for a sigmoidoscopy. If a polyp is found, it is recommended you have a colonoscopy to examine the rest of the colon.
  • CT Colongraphy (also called a Virtual Colonoscopy): Air is used to distend the colon and an X-ray of the abdomen is performed. A 3-D image is created of the colon & rectum and then interpreted by a radiologist to look for polyps and cancer. A bowel prep is required. (The same medication you would take for a colonoscopy.) No sedation is needed.
  • Stool Sample Testing
    • Option One: Your doctor will give you a home kit to collect a small stool sample. Once collected, the kit needs to be returned to the laboratory. The stool sample is examined for occult (hidden) blood. The blood could indicate a bleeding polyp or cancer. If blood is found, it is recommended you have a colonoscopy to find the reason for the blood.
    • Option Two: This test collects a larger stool sample and is returned to a special laboratory where they check for occult (hidden) blood and abnormal DNA markers which would indicate cancer. If the test is positive, it is recommended you have a colonoscopy.
  • Colonoscopy: A colonoscopy is an examination in which a doctor inserts a thin tube with a camera into the rectum and up into the colon (the large intestine). The doctor is looking for small growths, called polyps, which sometimes can become cancerous. Click here to read more about colonoscopies.

Take Action
Talk to your doctor about what screening option is best for you. Find a doctor near you at Affinity or Ministry.

Fatigue or heart attack or stroke?

When minutes matter…do you know the signs?

Knowing the signs of heart attack and stroke can help you save a life – and quality of life.

According to the American Heart Association, coronary heart disease is the number 1 cause of death in the United States, while stroke holds the number 3 spot.

Not only is it important to reduce your own risk of heart attack or stroke, it is important for you to recognize the signs so you can help others.

Heart Attack

Some heart attacks create sudden and intense symptoms, leaving no doubt that something is seriously wrong. Others are more insidious, causing less noticeable discomfort while damaging heart muscle. By observing and recognizing the signs of heart attack, you may be able to save a person’s life and may be just as importantly, preserve a person’s quality of life.

What to look for during a heart attack
A person suffering a heart attack may experience:

Chest discomfort such as the feelings of pressure, squeezing, fullness, or intense pain that lasts a few minutes and goes away.
In response to chest pain, a person may place his or her hand on or rub the chest.

Pain or discomfort in either or both arms, the back, the neck, the jaw or the stomach. If you see someone touching or rubbing those areas of his or her body, he or she might be experiencing discomfort as the pain ebbs and flows.

 

Shortness of breath
It may be hard for the person to carry on a conversation. If shortness of breath is severe feelings of anxiety might also be reflected in a person’s facial expression, signaling that he or she is not okay.

Sweating
Even though the temperature has not changed, the person experiencing a heart attack may start sweating and mopping his or her brow.

Nausea or Dizziness
People experiencing nausea or dizziness, may react by holding their heads in their hands, leaning on their arms, or putting their heads down.

Numbness of the arms
A person whose arms are numb or tingling may rub his or her arms to relieve the numbness.

Unexplained weakness or fatigue
Someone experiencing fatigue or weakness may become noticeably lethargic, move slowly, lean, try to lie down, or try to sleep. Unexplained weakness or fatigue and sleep disturbance and are the most common heart attack symptoms for women.

Unexplained anxiety
A person suffering heart attack may become anxious which will be noticeable through facial expressions and movements. Anxiety is another common sign in a woman suffering a heart attack.

Color
When heart attack strikes, the person’s face may become pale.

Indigestion
Complaints of an upset stomach, repositioning in a chair, or rubbing the stomach may be the cues that a woman is experiencing a heart attack. Watch carefully and look for other symptoms since indigestion is a common problem for many people.

If you notice any of these signs, ask how the person is feeling. If you believe he or she is having a heart attack, call 911 immediately. Emergency medical staff will arrive with the equipment necessary to assist the person if heart attack is occurring.

Stroke

Another life changing attack to watch for is stroke.

Stroke and its symptoms happen suddenly. If you suspect a stroke, act fast by calling 911.
You may save someone’s ability to live life to the fullest.

A person suffering from stroke may experience one of the five following symptoms:

  1. Sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body.
    Look at the face. Ask the person to smile or raise both arms above his or her head. If movements are not symmetrical, it may be a sign of stroke.
  2. Sudden inability to talk or understand.
    Ask the person his or her name or the color of an object. A person suffering a stroke may not be able to understand your question or tell you the answer.
  3. Sudden sight or vision problems.
    A person experiencing stroke may not be able to focus, may rub his or her eyes to try to clear them, or may squint. The sight problem may occur in one or both eyes.
  4. Sudden loss of balance, coordination or trouble walking.
    The person who was walking normally before may stagger and bump into objects.
  5. Sudden severe headache.
    Rubbing the temples or clutching the head is the indication of a severe headache. Severe, sudden headaches with no explainable cause should be checked by a health care provider.

Remember…
Minutes count. Know the signs. Seek help. Save a life. Save quality of life.

How many lookalike poisons are in your house?

lookalike poison

Every 30 seconds in the United States, a child is poisoned. Most children under five years of age are poisoned when they eat or drink products that look like flavored drinks or candy.

These products may smell pleasant, may have a sweet taste or may just have a similar appearance to something edible. Often small children will eat or drink something with a pungent smell or bitter taste because they think it is candy.

If you have small children in or visiting your home, it’s important to consider how some of your everyday products look through their eyes.

  • Pills often look like colorful candies.
  • Pine cleaner looks like apple juice.
  • Aspirin is often the same size and color as mints.
  • Pesticides used to kill mice or moles look like sunflower seeds.
  • Laundry and dishwasher detergent pods can be mistaken for marshmallow candies.
  • Nicotine gum looks exactly the same as child-safe gum.
  • Laxatives and chocolate bars look and taste similar.
  • Some household cleaners have a grainy texture and are in the same type of can as grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Transmission fluid looks a lot like fruit punch.
  • Window cleaner could be mistaken for ice-blue sports drinks.

In addition to these look-alikes, we now have gummy bear vitamins, cold medications you add to water bottles, and chocolate and caramel calcium chews that small children can easily confuse with candy.

Awareness is the key to keeping little children safe.

Store household cleaners, medications, and other liquids up and away from a child’s reach.

Store household cleaners, medications, and other liquids up and away from a child’s reach. Looking at products through the eyes of a child may prevent an accidental poisoning in your family.

You may also be interested in these look-alike poison resources.

Mistaken Identity Poster

Teaching Poison Prevention to Children Grades K – 3 from the Florida Poison Information Center

Disclaimer: The information found on Affinity's blog is a general educational aid. Do not rely on this information or treat it as a substitute for personal medical or health care advice, or for diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your physician or other qualified health care provider as soon as possible about any medical or health-related question and do not wait for a response from our experts before such consultation. If you have a medical emergency, seek medical attention immediately.

The Affinity Health System blog contains opinions and views created by community members. Affinity does endorse the contributions of community members. You should not assume the information posted by community members is accurate and you should never disregard or delay seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this site.