Holding on to Faith during a Colon Cancer Battle
- Christian Author and former pastor Randy Alcorn recently announced the death of his beloved wife, Nanci. She battled colon cancer since 2018.
- Symptoms of colorectal cancer can include a change in bowel habits, a feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that’s not relieved by having one, rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, cramping or abdominal (belly) pain, weakness, fatigue and unintended weight loss.
- Although it’s not for everyone, leaning into faith can help cancer warriors stay positive when times get tough.
Christian Author and former pastor Randy Alcorn, 67, is certainly not new to the world of faith. But him and his family have likely had to engage with their spirituality in a different way following the colon cancer diagnosis of Alcorn’s 67-year-old wife, Nanci.Read More
Nanci’s colon cancer battle began in 2018. Her journey with the disease was a long, hard one that ended just late last month.
Nanci is with Jesus. So happy for her. Sad for us. But the happiness for her triumphs over the sadness. Grieving is ahead, and it will be hard, but these last years and especially this last month have given us a headstart on the grieving process.
— Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) March 28, 2022
“Nanci is with Jesus,” Randy wrote in a recent Tweet. “So happy for her. Sad for us. But the happiness for her triumphs over the sadness. Grieving is ahead, and it will be hard, but these last years and especially this last month have given us a headstart on the grieving process.”
Randy then goes on to say that his wife’s “dependence on Jesus” through it all was an inspiration.
“What a great and kind God He is,” Randy wrote. “As of a few hours ago, Nanci now lives where she sees this firsthand, in the place where Joy truly is the air she breathes.”
And, interestingly enough, Nanci had suspicions that “she didn’t have much time left in this world” just days before her passing. This led Nanci to call upon her whole family to come together so she could have a proper “temporary goodbye.”
“What an emotional and meaningful and truly unforgettable time! Two of the grandsons said they would never forget this day, and the others in their own way made it clear they felt the same,” Randy wrote about the gathering. “Nanci’s desire was to have an eternal impact on the lives of her grandsons, and her life did that, but this day was the culmination.”
Understanding Colorectal Cancer
The term colorectal cancer is used to describe cancers that begin in the colon or the rectum – so some people just use the term colon cancer if that’s where the disease began.
Colorectal cancer, like all cancers, presents its own unique challenges for patients on the road to recovery. But Dr. Heather Yeo, a surgical oncologist and colorectal surgeon at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center, wants to remind people how far the treatment of this disease has come.
“One of the most exciting things about my job is that we’ve made a lot of progress on treatment options,” Dr. Yeo says in a previous interview with SurvivorNet. “However, patients are still — while they’re living longer, they are still living with colon cancer, and so I think it’s really important that we talk about how some of the things in your life affect you.”
Colorectal cancer might not immediately cause symptoms, but these are possible symptoms to look out for:
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation or narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that’s not relieved by having one
- Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
- Blood in the stool, which might make the stool look dark brown or black
- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
It is important to note, however, that displaying some of these symptoms does not mean you have colorectal cancer. You could also have colon cancer and not display any of these symptoms. Regardless, it is important to bring up any symptoms to your doctor should they arise.
Dr. Yeo also emphasizes the importance of colorectal cancer screenings such as colonoscopies because most colorectal cancers can be prevented early with screening.
“In the United States, on a national level, colorectal cancer has been decreasing for the last 20 years,” Dr. Yeo says. “And much of that is thought to be directly due to screening for colon cancer.”
Even still, colorectal cancer cases are rising among younger people. And in the United States alone, rates have increased every year from 2011 to 2016 by 2 percent among people younger than 50. Because of this increase, the United States Preventive Services Task Force has recently updated its colorectal cancer screening recommendations to begin at age 45 instead of 50.
“We know that colon cancers can be prevented when polyps are found early,” Dr. Yeo said. “Lowering the screening age helps somewhat with this. But access to care is a real problem.”
And increasing access is crucial to making sure that we don’t see racial disparities within the world of colorectal cancer. Whites and Asians are significantly more likely to be up to date with their colonoscopies than African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans.
Research suggests that tailoring colon cancer screenings to each person’s individual risk may be beneficial. If you are not yet 45 but have concerns about your risk, talk to your doctor. Ask about your individual risk based on your lifestyle and family history and find out when screenings would be right for you.
Faith during a Cancer Battle
Faith played a huge role during Nanci’s cancer battle, and Randy has openly discussed how much it’s helped the whole family.
“He will wipe away all the tears and all the reasons for the tears,” Randy wrote in a tweet.
For some people, turning to faith can be a great way to keep spirits high when cancer starts taking an emotional and/or physical toll. Monica Layton, for example, also believes in the power of faith during a fight with cancer. She turned to her church congregation for support as she battled ovarian cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic and then went through recovery.
“[I’ve] gone to the same church for a long time, so it’s like another family that really supports me,” she told SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “We’re Episcopalian, and when I was having surgery my priest came to the hospital and stayed and prayed with my family the whole time – and it was a long surgery. And then he came back to the hospital every day to pray with me.”
In addition to praying for her, Layton’s church also sent flowers, cards and a prayer blanket and often visited her.
“They were so kind,” Layton said. “I think my faith has been very important, crucial for me. Just the prayer really helps, I think.”