Amanda Sherwood Roberts, to whom the Colossal Colon is dedicated, lost her valiant battle with colon cancer on January 1, 2002 at the age of 27. She is survived by a large family including her children, Caroline, 6 and William, 3, her husband, Jeff Roberts, her parents Bernie and Martha, her brother Nicholas, and a large group of family and friends who love and miss her dearly. Below is
Amanda's story of her battle with colon cancer, most of it in her own words.
I am now 25 years old. I have a four year-old daughter and a 15-month old son. I am a colon cancer survivor.
In January of 1999, at the age of 24, I was diagnosed with colon cancer. I had been having symptoms for a couple of months, but because I had had a C-section in September of 1998, I dismissed the pain as side effects from the surgery. Around Thanksgiving, the pain got worse. Again, I dismissed it as a possible ulcer. I had just quit work to stay home with my 2 children. The adjustment was very stressful, so I figured I had developed a stomach ulcer.
The first week of December, 1998, I noticed blood in my stool. I immediately called my doctor, but he was not in so I saw his backup. He ordered stool cultures and tested them for parasites and eggs. His nurse called the week before Christmas to tell me that my tests came back negative, no parasites. When I told the nurse that I still had the symptoms and asked her what to do, she told me to wait, that they would probably go away. And they actually did. If that nurse had taken a moment to look at my chart she would have seen that the doctor had made a note for me to have a colonoscopy
if the results came back negative.
One month later, in mid-January, I went to the bathroom and when I wiped, it was like I had started my period, only it
wasn't coming from the right place. I immediately called my doctor and went in to see him. After examining me, he scheduled my colonoscopy. I later found out that he had to literally fight with my insurance company to get them to pay for it. I mean, here I am, a 24-year-old female with no family history whatsoever of this disease
- my insurance company thought it was absolutely ridiculous. I wish they had been right.
I had the colonoscopy on Thursday, January 21, 1999 and was diagnosed with colon cancer on Tuesday, January 26. I had a CT scan on Thursday, January 28 and met with my surgeon on Friday, January 29. He performed the surgery on February 2. During my eight-day stay in the hospital, I was told I had Stage III metastatic adenocarcenoma.
I started chemotherapy on March 10, 1999 - once a week for six weeks with two weeks off in between. After my fifth treatment, I became very sick because the dosage was too high for me. I threw up, had diarrhea for a week, and was treated in the ER for dehydration. After that, we lowered my dose.
My husband and I separated on August 29, 1999 after just under three years of marriage. We have since filed for divorce and are proceeding with the necessary actions. I finished my chemo on September 27, 1999 and went back for a follow-up CT scan on Thursday, October 28. The radiologist misread my scan and said the cancer was back. I quit my new job because I was told that I would have surgery and undergo chemo all over again. Fortunately, the radiologist was wrong. Unfortunately, I could not get my job back. But hey,
I'd rather be healthy and jobless. I have since found a new job and I feel great.
Spring 2000 UPDATE from Amanda
I had a checkup on January 17, 2000 and everything is great! I go back for another checkup in May, a colonoscopy in June or July and a CT scan in September. My husband and I have now decided to reconcile (they got back together in late Feb 2000). After six months of separation, I guess
we've both realized a lot and we will work things out. Everything else is great! I have so much to be thankful for. I am working on sending my Colon Cancer Alliance
press packets out to our local media to help raise awareness about colorectal cancer.
I do understand that with the late stage my cancer was at, there is a great possibility that it will return. But until that happens, I am happy, healthy and enjoying my children as much as I can.
I describe myself as someone who has been through more in the last year and a half than most people have to endure in an entire lifetime. I do not wish it on anyone else, but I still have this to say:
"I am happy, healthy and I am alive! No matter what I've been through, I made it and I am still
July/August 2001 UPDATE from Amanda
The cancer came back in my abdomen in August 2000. I am now 26, and for the last year I have been a patient at MD Anderson in Houston. I have taken Oxaliplatin, CPT-11, 5-FU and Xeloda. My treatments are no longer working, and my tumor is inoperable. Right now I am not doing any treatments.
I'm actually planning to take a trip to Hawaii with my best friend and
I'm very excited about that! I will see my doctors in two months and who knows? Maybe they will have come out with a
"miracle" drug by then or God will have granted me a miracle.
My message to others is be persistent with your doctors. You know how you are feeling and you can usually tell when something
isn't right. Do NOT every give up! I have found that I have many, many friends and family members and people I
don't even know praying for me and offering support! Although things for me
don't look so good, I'm not going to let it get me down. I will fight this battle to the end!
October 22, 2001 UPDATE from Amanda
As some of you may or may not know, for the last 2 1/2 weeks I've been pretty sick. I
haven't eaten, so I've lost quite a bit of weight. My stomach is huge! I look like
I'm about to drop a baby. I pretty much spend my time in bed. Today, I went to my oncologist to have my port flushed. The nurses there would not let me leave without seeing the doctor. I saw him and he determined that my stomach is not so big because
it's filled with fluid. I had thought it was fluid and a simple procedure could drain it off and provide me with some relief. Unfortunately my stomach is so big because of my tumor. It is growing so rapidly and there is not a lot of room left in my abdomen, which is one reason
I'm sure I do not have an appetite. I did, however, eat a few bites of supper tonight. Not much, but I guess that is better than nothing.
My doctor did say that if we take no action, within three months things will be very bad. I
don't know if he means I have three months left or I will be extremely sick in three months.
Today has not been a very good day for me. I was very shocked when I found out that my abdomen was not filled with fluid. It threw me for a huge loop. I hope you are all doing well. I am accepting phone calls and visitors if anyone is interested. Also, we are going to have a big birthday blowout for me. My birthday is on November 23rd, which falls on the day after Thanksgiving. Expect to hear more on this!
Love you all! Amanda
January 2002 UPDATE (writen by Amanda's cousin Hannah)
My cousin Amanda died at home on New Year's Day 2002 from recurrent colon cancer. Aside from spending time with her family, the most important thing in
Amanda's mind for the past few years has been to spread awareness about colon cancer. She has been doing this with her special brand of humor and grace, from talking to people individually to being profiled on the local news to going on the Today show
with her friend and colon cancer survivor Molly McMaster. She said that she knew that by telling her story over and over,
someone's life would eventually be saved.
The very best memorial I can think of to Amanda's life is that my best friend emailed me a few days after
Amanda's funeral to tell me that she heard some women talking at the gym about a girl in her 20s who had just died of colon cancer. They were talking about how they had seen Amanda on the Today show
in the fall and she kept saying to not let the doctors ignore you. My friend wrote to me, "so someone has been listening!" My hope, as
Amanda's was, is that everyone who sees this important message will continue to listen. And I know, as Amanda did, that lives will be saved.