Written by Carol Ann Larson
Carol Larson’s second book, Positive Options for Colorectal Cancer is, in her own words, “a book for patients, written by patients.” As a colorectal cancer patient, Carol’s search for firsthand knowledge of what to expect led her to write her first book, When the Trip Changes, an account of her journey with the disease.
She joined Advocates for Colorectal Cancer Education (ACE), a group of survivors, who together decided to bring their experiences out in the open, to help dispel the silence surrounding colorectal cancer. Carol became co-editor of The Advocate, the organization’s newsletter and each issue featured stories from survivors, giving more intimate pictures of their own experiences. These stories become a part of this book. She has also enlisted medical professionals to contribute information. Carol calls the book “a collaborative effort between the members of ACE and health care professionals from the area of Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN.”
This book is also written for caregivers, and considering that colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in America, in both men and women, it is a book for everyone interested in early detection.
Carol stresses the importance of warning signals; they can be varied and may be mistaken for other problems, such as stomach upset or ulcers. These are some symptoms which should not be ignored however: any significant change in bowel habits, such as persistent diarrhea or constipation; narrowing of the stools; bleeding; abdominal pain that is unexplained; bloating; fatigue. This is the time to see your doctor and ask about screening tests.
American Cancer Society guidelines for screening tests for those over fifty, not in a high risk group are: an annual fecal occult blood test, in combination with a sigmoidoscopy every five years; a barium enema every five years if a colonoscopy is not feasible; a colonoscopy every ten years. Those in high-risk groups – (family history or known heredity) or increased-risk-groups (close relatives with the disease) should have more frequent screenings.
Carol tells her own story. She was diagnosed with Stage III colorectal cancer – and she takes us through her reactions, fears, the challenges that confronted her. We learn of her surgical experiences – interactions with doctors and nurses, the importance of supportive family and friends, and so much more. If you’ve ever wondered about the pros and cons of chemotherapy and radiation, you’ll get a good picture here. What happens to family life and sexuality when cancer is diagnosed? How do you cope with depressing thoughts? And how do you face setbacks, treatments and recurrences?
Carol is an upbeat lady, a schoolteacher with a need to know and a strong desire to pass on her knowledge – Her research is far reaching, her writing skills evident. She incorporates the stories of fellow ACE group members and the advice and tips from medical professionals seamlessly into a coherent book, a valuable asset to the resources for colorectal cancer.
It has been six years since Carol’s surgery and subsequent treatments and she leads a full, busy life. To quote Carol, “After surgery has made divots in our intestines, and as our treatments are being completed, those of us who have survived find ourselves facing new challenges…Winning becomes a quest to make every day count. That is the victory. Cancer is a wretched disease, but it has no power over the human spirit.”