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Colon cancer patient: 'Cancer doesn't have to be a death sentence'

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Marie Cavazos never expected the stomach pain she had been experiencing was a colon cancer symptom.

 In April 2010, Marie started feeling a tightening sensation in her lower abdomen. Each day it grew a little worse.

"It felt as if I had on a belt that was really tight," she says. 

Finally, when Marie was so uncomfortable she could no longer sit, she decided to go to the emergency room. Fearing that the wait would be long, she told her husband to leave and come back later. She didn't think it would be anything serious. A half an hour later she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.

Undergoing colon cancer treatment
Marie's cancer journey has been full of ups and downs. After her diagnosis, her doctors in her hometown, Harlingen, Texas, told her there was nothing they could do for her. So she came to MD Anderson for colon cancer treatment.

Marie underwent five surgeries to remove the cancer. Each time it returned. Her doctors recommended radiation treatment, but Marie delayed the treatment to continue working at her job a few more weeks. During that time the cancer continued to spread, and doctors told her they could no longer use radiation treatment.

Now Marie is relying on an oral chemotherapy treatment and responding well, but her next line of defense is a clinical trial.

Giving hope to others with colon cancer
Through it all, Marie has remained positive.

"The way I see it is cancer doesn't have to be a death sentence," she says.

When Marie was initially diagnosed, her doctors told her she had four to six months to live. That was four years ago.

She attributes this to the support she's received from her friends and family along with her medical team, led by Cathy Eng, M.D., associate professor of gastrointestinal medical oncology.

Now Marie wants to offer that same support to other patients. She will be honored with the Courageous Spirit Award at the 9th annual S.C.O.P.E. Run at MD Anderson on Saturday, March 22, 2014.  The race promotes colon cancer screening and honors all people diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Register online for the 2014 S.C.O.P.E. Run at MD Anderson on Saturday, March 22. For more information, email scope@mdanderson.org.

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