After losing her husband to Early-Age Onset Colon Cancer, Kelli decided to raise funds for the Colon Cancer Foundation and advocate for Colon Cancer awareness in memory of her husband until Colorectal Cancer is just as prominent in our minds as Breast Cancer:
It is my pleasure to push for donations for colon cancer. In January of 2020, my husband(Frank) saw his dr for what we thought was a stomach virus. The doctor was not seeing any real big issue wrote it off as a long-lasting virus but put in an order for ultrasound in February if he wasn’t better by then. A few weeks later (and still having on and off stomach issues) he saw his headache doctor who ran some blood work. A few days later they called us concerned about his liver enzymes. They advised us to pick up a copy of the blood work and see his doctor immediately. His primary doctor was finally as concerned as we were and rushed the ultrasound. Two days later he had it done. I knew something was wrong when they asked him to stay while they called the doctor to gain permission for a CT saying the ultrasound showed “bubbles of gas”. A few hours later with no word we went home. At 10:30 that night his primary doctor called me. He explained that the ultrasound showed several masses and he wanted us to report to the ER for a CT, he hadn’t told my husband yet he called to warn me what was coming before he did. He then called and explained to Frank what the ultrasound showed. The next morning we got the kids to school and headed in for the CT. Dr. Ben (who was amazing) at Chesapeake General got the unpleasant job of explaining he had cancer and it was not a small version but instead a very big one (stage four) and at the age of 38 with a wife and two kids. This being the spiral of colonoscopy, being moved to the top priority at the oncologist, a tumor sample surgery, and three different types of chemotherapy. The oncologist gave us lots of hope that he would beat it or at least reduce it to an operable size, he easily had about 5 years. Frank started chemo in late March that year and every two weeks he was in the chair for about 5 hours while I was stuck outside due to covid being announced and new policies. In December after no real change other than spreading to now 4 locations, he opted to take a month off. I fully supported him in that as his Birthday and Christmas were coming and he really wanted to go visit family. During December he had fewer symptoms since chemo had left him with neuropathy in his fingers and toes along with hair loss and severe reactions to cold. When we returned after New Years I immediately called the office to request a CT and restart of treatment. The CT revealed more spreading and growing tumors Frank restarted chemo immediately. A new addition to treatment was draining the fluid buildup from his abdomen every week. In the last six months, every genetic test available was run to try and find the cause of his cancer. They all came back with no issues in his genes. After four weeks of treatment and growing reactions, his oncologist called me to discuss his status. The ammonia was building up in his body as his liver was now shutting down and full of tumors. He let me know that Frank had 6-8 weeks left. We chose to call family and advise them to visit but not to tell Frank yet. The doctor ordered a permanent drain to go in. March 8th he had the procedure. On Tuesday he woke up with very diminished brain functioning. We had the hospice team come immediately- the same team that Frank refused for months. Their initial assessment was he had a week maybe two. His brain function cleared up mostly so it restored some hope of a longer time. Friday he was deteriorating again. I had taken care of him in every way in the last month but now he didn’t even have the strength to stand in the shower, or at all really. Sunday, March 14th he woke up with a bit more energy and was insistent on making homemade orange juice downstairs. So I helped him down, cut the oranges and he juiced one and a half before he was exhausted. He rested for a bit while drinking his juice then I helped him back up the stairs. The nurse came to check in and explained to me he was very rapidly slipping away so expect it in the next day or two. We spent that day watching Harry Potter as a family. He dozed on and off but was very clear when awake. Then suddenly he wasn’t. At 10:01 pm he took his last breath with the kids and I surrounded him in love. It was the worst day of our lives, telling him it was ok to let go and how much we loved him watching him slip away in mere hours after he was up and talking.
He lived a year fighting his best fight and we spent it loving each other more than ever.
He never had any indications before that thought to be stomach flu. Early testing has to become a routine thing and I plan to advocate and raise funds in his memory until it is just as prominent in our minds as breast cancer. No one should have to go through what we did as a family especially at such a young age.
A huge thank you to Kelli for sharing her inspiring story. If you are interested in starting your own fundraiser, learn more about it here: https://www.coloncancerfoundation.org/events/organize-your-own-fundraising-event/?fbclid=IwAR23xzwdF-K8j0t-WETp-gzIjj0j-LpXg49ywZ8g-YQjSM8vK722Mis4h-k