Name: Lesley Marlin
Age at Diagnosis: 29
In August 2006, at the age of 29, I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. It came out of the blue, making it a complete shock. I was an avid runner and had no family history. So luckily I had odd physical symptoms, which led to my diagnosis somewhat sooner rather than later. I quickly underwent surgery, and the next seven months were filled with making decisions, getting chemotherapy, and coping with side effects. I had a fairly good prognosis, but then again, my odds of getting cancer in the first place had been in the single digits. I tried to focus on the fact that my oncologist had described it as cancer with a little “c,” not a big “C.” I hoped to just get through and put it behind me. That was not what happened, though.
Testing completed in May 2007, shortly after my last treatment, strongly suggested a local recurrence. The medical reviews and discussions took on a much different tone and a sense of urgency. My world had been turned inside out and upside down, and it felt like I was living in a nightmare. I was told in very certain terms that I needed to fight for my life. I underwent extensive testing and sought medical opinions at some of nation’s renowned cancer centers. After much consideration and tough decision-making, I opted for major, explorative surgery designed to assess the abnormality and treat it during surgery as necessary and appropriate. I went to MD Anderson Cancer Center for the surgery, which occurred in August 2007 and thankfully determined that the abnormality was not a recurrence. I spent quite a bit of time recovering from the surgery and prior cancer treatment. I also had routine follow-up, both in the Washington, D.C. area and Houston, Texas, and I had a couple more scares of various kinds.
As the years passed, I got engaged in 2008 and then married in 2009. Once my medical condition was stable, we decided to try to start a family. Not surprisingly, although still incredibly disappointing, I faced the struggle of infertility. Eventually, I became pregnant with twins. My pregnancy had its ups and downs, including nearly 11 weeks of bed rest. In 2012, I gave birth to twin boys. The delivery of my boys had serious, unexpected complications arising from my prior abdominal surgeries.
Cancer has forever changed me, but it has also given me a profound appreciation for the gift of life. I am now a wife and mother. I continue to have a career that I thoroughly enjoy and opportunities to help others facing similar adversity.
Now that I am more than 9 years out, I know that people look at me and my family and have no idea what I have been through. That’s a good thing in some ways, but in other ways, it perpetuates the view that folks like me are too young to get colorectal cancer.