I came to COLONTOWN in 2018 as primary caregiver for my husband, Dan. He was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer with a single lung metastasis in 2014 after being cancer free for almost five years after an initial Stage 3C dx in 2009. At that same time in 2014, he also was diagnosed with stage one primary breast cancer. He underwent a lobectomy and mastectomy in a matter of weeks. After consulting with top cancer centers on the East Coast, it was decided to treat his breast cancer with adjuvant chemo because he was HER+. This chemo caused him to develop sepsis and he stopped treatment. He survived sepsis and planned my surprise 50th birthday party from his hospital bed. Eighteen months later colon cancer came roaring back with multiple mets to the lungs. Our oncologist at Penn said chemo for life but framed it as managing a chronic disease. This really helped our mental outlook. My husband did well on first line treatment for two plus years.
Then things started getting hard and that’s when I found COLONTOWN. I was amazed by the immediate support and wealth of knowledge from this online community. I soon developed the confidence and knowledge to be a better advocate for my husband and question our oncologists. I started to navigate the world of clinical trials. Pre-COVID, I was able to meet in person other caregivers and patients in my area who were just as warm and genuine in person as they were online. It is life changing when you find people who understand. The wonderful caregivers in CAREPARTNER COVE were there for me especially in my darkest days leading to my husband’s death in December 2019.
Just before COVID altered life as we all know it, I had lunch with COLONTOWN founder Erika Hanson Brown in February 2020. She shared her vision for COLONTOWN’s future with me and I said I wanted to give back in some way. She encouraged me to take an Empowered Patient Leader training, which I did virtually in July 2020. I became a host in CAREPARTNER COVE shortly thereafter and am honored to now be Community Leader.
My husband was a great patient with a positive, hopeful outlook and really made my caregiving responsibilities easy. We continued to live our best possible lives while he underwent treatment. Our best possible lives evolved over time from traveling often to just watching a favorite TV show together. This is the best advice I can give caregivers is that you have to continue to live your best possible lives at that moment. Make memories that will last a lifetime however long that may be.