As members of the SurvivorNet community know, cancer inspires a deep appreciation of ordinary family time: “Nothing fancy. Hanging at home,” Criscilla Anderson, 40, writes of her weekend with husband, singer Coffey Anderson and their three children. “Husband made me brunch. Emmy set the table and made my coffee. They loved on me.
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Then off to play cause that’s what I love watching them do,” she writes on Instagram, adding, “Blessed to be here with my children.”
In November of 2019, when Anderson’s stage 3 colon cancer was upgraded to stage 4, she prayed she to be around to see her children grow up. Now, with news that her tumors are shrinking, she has said, “I know this is my miracle.”
For her husband, Coffey Anderson, a self-made country music star, it’s the second time the disease has intruded on his life. “I hate the smell of hospitals,” he told People in 2019. “I was 10 years old when my mom was going through her treatments, and I can still remember that
With surgery and chemotherapy, many stage 3 colon cancer patients can be back to 100% within six weeks, says Dr. Daniel Labow, Chief of the Surgical Oncology Division at Mount Sinai Health System.
I can still remember that smell.” Coffey Anderson’s mother died just ten days before his 11 birthday. “But I can also remember how my dad took care of my mom. So now, I’m taking care of my wife.”
“Oh, these kids,” says Coffey who, before the pandemic, announced plans for an Anderson-family reality show based on their country-hip-hop marriage and the cancer story that winds through it. “They bring so much joy and love with them. They are the sweetest children.”
Criscilla Anderson’s Battle With Colon Cancer
In 2018, Anderson experienced severe stomach pains which would leave her doubled-over in pain. She visited her doctor and was initially diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2018, but went into a brief remission. In November 2019, she found out her disease had reoccurred and developed into stage 4 metastatic colon cancer. According to Anderson, her oncologists told her that the disease was “treatable, but not curable.”
Since her metastatic stage 4 colon cancer diagnosis in 2019, Anderson has been keeping fans updated through social media on her progress and treatment. Recently, she said that her tumors have shrunk.
“When your tumors go smaller than 5 millimeters, it’s hard to measure if they’ve shrunk a tiny bit, because they’re already so small,” she explained in a teary video on Instagram. “So the radiologist marked them as ‘stable’.” But, she adds, when her doctor did measurements against her previous scan he had good news: “He goes ‘wait, these have shrunk.’”
Dr. Paul Oberstein, medical oncologist at NYU’s Perlmutter Cancer Center says chemotherapy can prevent stage 3 colon cancer from returning.
In colon cancer, doctors know that if tumor cells have reached the lymph nodes, they may be hiding in other parts of the body, too. Even tumors that are too small to be seen can cause the cancer to return. Because of that risk of recurrence, chemotherapy following surgery is recommended for stage 3 colon cancer.
“The smallest one of all of them, he couldn’t see,” she said, getting teary. “So, I’ll take it. Because I know that God has healed me. And I know the next time I go in for another scan, they’re going to be gone. I know this is my miracle. This is so great.” Anderson adds that she will continue her vegan, sugar-free diet.
However, Anderson told People that she plans to stop going through chemotherapy treatments for a while and embrace more “natural” treatments.
“I’m holding off on chemo at the moment and letting the natural stuff do its work,” Anderson said. “I’m staying diligent with my supplements and my diet and just letting God work his miracle on me.”
Anderson was accompanied in Spain by her friend and fellow “cancer overcomer” Julie Bennet. The two families have shared an unconventional quarantine — see their mom-dance (below) from Criscilla’s Instagram — living together to support each other in case of a medical emergency.
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Why Are Young People Getting Colon Cancer?
The American Cancer Society guidelines for colon cancer recommend that average-risk adults begin getting colonoscopies at age 45. For those who are given clear scans, they should go back for additional colonoscopies once every 10 years. With regular screening, colon cancer is preventable.
However, even with these nation-wide screening recommendations, the rate at which younger adults are being diagnosed with colon cancer has been going up. In a previous interview, Dr. Heather Yeo, a colorectal surgeon at Weill Cornell, said that the reason colon cancer is becoming more common among people under 50 is hard to pin down, but these cancers tend to have some unique characteristics.
“We don’t know exactly why it’s increasing,” Dr. Yeo said. “It’s a different type of cancer. The colon cancers that are in the younger age group are more likely to be on the left side, they’re more likely to be rectal cancers, they are more likely to be kind of aggressive tumor types.”
“It may be something environmental. Our group actually tried to look at some of the kind of common risk factors,” she explained. “We looked at maps of the United States. We looked at smoking rates, and we looked at obesity. If you compare that to colon cancer, you’ll see, yes, where there’s obesity in the United States, there’s higher colon cancer. However, it didn’t quite match with younger age groups. So there are some different risk factors for these early colon cancers.”
Know The Symptoms
For people under the age of 45 — the need to undergo colon cancer screening varies. Some people are considered high-risk and may need to get colonoscopies earlier and more frequently. Another important aspect in the fight against this disease is symptoms. If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, a conversation with your doctor about screening may be in order:
- Change in bowel habits
- Change in the color of stool
- Abdominal pain
- Unintended weight loss