Shelby Walters

Age: Adult
Association: Survivor
Region: Austin Texas
Cancer: Colorectal Cancer

"The story of my cancer is so much longer, because it involves major mental shifts, becoming incredibly powerful, realizing that I can be tenacious, and learning to love my life because I now really understand that I will die. Someday."

The rectal bleeding began in the summer of 2014. As a PT who was fit and under 50, I thought it had to be from a bleeding ulcer due to life stresses or from eating way too much watermelon. After a few weeks, I finally made an appointment with my PCP who did a thorough office exam. Despite not real signs of this, he diagnosed me with internal hemorrhoids, sent me home with some suppositories, and made a follow up appointment for two weeks. I went back in two weeks later still bleeding, he gave me a fecal test to take home, another round of suppositories, and made an appointment to come back in a few weeks. Nothing changed, the holidays came and went, and as spring unfolded, I began to experience fatigue so severe I could barely make it through a work day, along with the blood I was now passing mucus, and I was pooping multiple times a day. At this point I demanded a colonoscopy, and two weeks later was diagnosed with stage III rectal cancer. What no one tells you is that you don’t get diagnosed and immediately jump into treatment, it is weeks of doctors appointments, diagnostic testing, and scheduling before you finally have a treatment plan, or even a stage! It was torturous, but 5 weeks after diagnosis, I began 29 rounds of chemoradiation at MD Anderson in Houston. All you need to know here is that radiation burns to the pelvic floor and is devastating and painful, and you will need pelvic floor physical therapy following, just trust me on this.  8 weeks following the completion of my neoadjuvant treatments, I underwent a surgery to remove the majority of my rectum, place a j-pouch (fake rectum), and hook up my temporary ileostomy. This was not an easy recovery. 8 weeks following that, I underwent 9 rounds of iv chemo. Also not for the faint of heart. 8 weeks following that, my ileostomy was reversed. 1 year later, I underwent a wedge resection for a lung tumor, and 1 1/2 years after that, another. It’s been 6 months since. I’ve gotten a CT scan every 3 months since November of 2016. All of the above, though, is really just a schedule. The story of my cancer is so much longer, because it involves major mental shifts, becoming incredibly powerful, realizing that I can be tenacious, and learning to love my life because I now really understand that I will die. Someday.