Fierce, Fighting Friday
Jordan Millar, 39
Victoria, BC, Canada
” I felt like I was just getting my life back together after a stressful 3.5 years of being a cancer mama to my son.“
Provide a brief biography to describe your life pre-diagnosis
Prior to my son’s diagnosis, I was an active health-conscious chiropractor who loves hiking, nature, animals, and travelling. Then cancer hit our family when my son was diagnosed with leukemia at age 3. I also had an 11 month old daughter who was still nursing. We went through 3.5 years of chemotherapy and lumbar punctures for him which was extremely stressful and heartbreaking to see your child go through that and wonder if he was going to survive. He had been off treatment for about 18 months, when I was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer at age 39. So pre-diagnosis I had two small children while dealing with childhood cancer. I felt like I was just getting my life back together after a stressful 3.5 years of being a cancer mama to my son.
Did you have any symptoms leading up to your diagnosis? What led you to see a doctor?
I’d had symptoms on and off for over a decade. Symptoms of IBS and blood in the stool very infrequently that was always attributed to hemorrhoids even though not one doctor did a physical exam to assess for hemorrhoids. Ultimately, I was misdiagnosed for years by multiple doctors. Finally, in the 3 months leading up to my diagnosis, I had daily rectal bleeding, extreme back pain, the feeling of pressure that I needed to go to the bathroom but couldn’t, very thin stools, and anemia.
How did hearing the words “you have cancer” make you feel?
I thought I was going to throw up, and I started to shake and panic. It was awful. I was never expecting a metastatic diagnosis. I had known something was wrong when I felt a tender mass but was expecting a local tumour or fibroid. I never would have guessed the extent of it!
What do you know now that you wish you had known back then?
That stress is a huge contributor to cancer and I’m certain stress was a huge contributor to my cancer.
How has life changed? What has been your biggest challenge since your diagnosis?
I’m focusing on putting myself first for once. More self-care and managing my stress.
What do you wish people knew about supporting a loved one with cancer? What have been the most helpful ways that friends and family have supported you?
One of the most helpful things through treatment was a mealtrain set up by my sister. That was incredibly supportive as I didn’t have enough energy to cook for myself, let alone my family.
What was your treatment protocol?
I was diagnosed with young-onset stage 4 colorectal cancer at age 39. The treatment was emergency surgery to remove the primary tumour obstructing my colon, and then indefinite rounds of chemotherapy and targeted therapy. I was put on FOLFOX and panitumumab. I’ve been told I’m incurable and will need chemo for life. Remarkably, I’m in the 2% of people that are NED (No Evidence of Disease) after chemotherapy alone. However we anticipate tumour growth so right now I’m in the wait and monitor period, which in itself is anxiety-provoking. I try to find ways to keep busy and limit my worries.