When I first started blogging about cancer, I named my first blog "Semicolon Stories" because I needed an outlet, a way to tell my story of surviving colon cancer at age 17. It proved to be a healing experience.
Telling my story helped me find purpose for my pain. It also connected me to a vast community of other survivors who wanted to tell their stories.
There are many survivors with colon cancer patient stories. Caregivers too. My passion for telling these stories is what eventually led me into my role as Fight Colorectal Cancer's Chief Storyteller. I’ve seen the power of storytelling.
After hearing a colon cancer symptom story or diagnosis story, some people choose to get screened for colon cancer, like get a colonoscopy or do an at-home test, when they hear about someone’s diagnosis. I’ve heard stories where this led to someone else’s cancer being found. Sometimes, people start asking their family members if colon cancer runs in their family after they’ve heard about someone else’s story. I’ve also watched patients and caregivers get involved in the cause—by donating, advocating and volunteering—because someone’s story showed them the power of community.
Tips for Telling Colon Cancer Stories
As I learned to tell my colon cancer survivor story, I recognized that most audiences and readers want to hear certain aspects of a cancer survivor story. This applies to writing as well as inspirational speaking.
While every patient is unique, most of our colon cancer survivor stories have these components:
We don’t all have the same colon cancer symptoms, nor do we usually have all of the symptoms; but, usually we can look back and identify some reasons we knew something wasn't right with our bodies. What led us to knowing something with our body was wrong? Blood in the stool? Abdominal pain? Diarrhea or constipation? Anemia? Knowing your symptoms, how long you saw your symptoms, and what you did about them, will be important parts to include in your story.
What led to your official colon or rectal cancer diagnosis? Is it a long story or a short story? Did you quickly find out, and were your doctors quick to scan and exam you? Or, did you get pushback and the runaround? When you did get your diagnosis, how did you feel? What happened next? The moment of diagnosis is an important piece to your colorectal cancer story—don’t skip this part!
Most people will want to know what treatment you underwent. In basic forms, explaining you did chemotherapy, radiation and surgery is understood by most people. If you went on a clinical trial, mention that too. If you’re talking to researchers or more of a scientific audience (or a patient audience who is going through the same things), you can sometimes share the actual names of your procedures and drugs. They'll want to know the details more than the general audience.
Cause of your cancer
What caused your colon cancer? Most of the time, you won’t really know unless it’s a hereditary colon cancer. In that case, share about it. For example, I know I have Lynch Syndrome. When I tell my story, I mention this because it explains why I was diagnosed with colon cancer so young. If you’re family has Lynch, FAP, or another genetic syndrome, this would be good to include in telling your story. If you’re unsure the cause, don’t make it up. Remember: what caused your colon cancer may be different from colon cancer risk factors.
How are you doing? What has cancer been like emotionally or mentally for you? These are great details to add into colon cancer stories. People don’t only want to know the facts, they want the heart of the story. Cancer is emotional, many feelings come with it. Don’t forget to share some of what you’re facing and how you’re coping, if you’re able.
Last, people will want to know how your health is now. Are you still in treatment? In remission? Chemo for life? Find a way to let your readers or audiences know how you’re doing now. It will help them connect to you even more, and end your story on a powerful note. Tell about how you're navigating the "New Normal."
Where To Find and Submit Colon Cancer Stories
There are many ways and places to tell your colon cancer personal story. It depends on what you’re hoping to get out of it; but here’s a starting point.
Sharing your Health Updates
To share your health updates with loved ones, here’s a few resources:
- Start a personal blog or social media presence (I’ve seen a lot of Facebook groups) for your health updates.
- If you need financial support, GoFundMe will also allow you to update on how you’re doing.
- MyCaringBridge or MyLifeline are two health journals where people can sign up via email to get your updates.
Sharing your Story with the World
Several colorectal cancer advocacy groups can help you share your story with the world. These sites tell colon cancer patient stories and rectal cancer patient stories. Each one has unique submission requests, so read carefully!
Fight Colorectal Cancer’s Champion Stories
I’m biased, but this is one of the best places to tell your story online. Not only will it encourage other patients and caregivers searching for colon cancer survivor stories, but your story may also be used in the media or on Capitol Hill. At Fight CRC, we regularly get asked for powerful patient stories to amplify our policy asks and research needs. Adding your story to the Champion Stories is a great way to let the community know you want to make an impact with your personal story of facing colorectal cancer.
Additionally, Fight CRC has an Ambassador program for those who want to be a spokesperson with their story.
Faces of Blue by Colon Cancer Coalition
The Colon Cancer Coalition is behind the Get Your Rear in Gear races, a fun event that takes place all across the U.S. Their “Faces of Blue” blog is a fun project that spotlights the many patients and caregivers facing this disease.
The Colon Club
You’ll need to apply to be featured in the On the Rise magazine, but their online forum is also a place to share your story and connect with others. These are stories for young adults, people diagnosed with colorectal cancer age 50 and below (or caregivers).
Your Hospitals and Government agencies
It’s likely that your hospital has a website and that their communications team is looking for patient stories. For example, groups like Fox Chase have patient stories on their website. Even the CDC is looking to tell colon cancer screening patient stories. Ask your providers if there’s an opportunity to share, or reach out to the groups directly.