One in 20 people will develop colorectal cancer in their lifetimes, and Mary was one of them.
"You don't know what to think," Mary said. "You're just in shock."
In July 2009, Mary saw Dr. Jessica Horn for what she thought might be acid reflux. While there, she mentioned noticing light blood in her stools. Dr. Horn gave her a prescription and recommended a colonoscopy.
On a Monday in August, Mary saw Dr. Alan Lawrence for a colonoscopy. Before the procedure, Dr. Lawrence discussed a few things that might be causing the bleeding, such as a polyp. Mary never thought it could be cancer.
Dr. Lawrence found a tumor in Mary's rectum. A biopsy revealed the tumor was cancerous. Three days later, Mary had a PET scan. The next day, she met with Dr. Jeffrey Brindle, Radiation Oncologist, and Dr. Michael Ward, Medical Oncologist, at the Prairie Lakes Cancer Center. Mary's diagnosis was stage IIIB rectal cancer.
"At this point my emotions were like a roller coaster," Mary said. "Your life truly does flash before your eyes. I feel sorry for people who have to go through a cancer diagnosis."
In August, Mary started 5 1/2 weeks of chemo and radiation therapy at the Prairie Lakes Cancer Center. She continued to work full-time while receiving treatments. Mary would schedule her radiation treatments over her lunch break. "I was lucky," Mary said. "I didn't get sick or lose my hair. I was able to keep working and go to my kid's ball games."
Mary underwent surgery in November with Dr. Eric Rolfsmeyer. "When we met with the doctor after the surgery, he was grinning from ear to ear," Mary said. "They took out seven lymph nodes and they all came back clean."
Following surgery, Mary met with her doctors at the Prairie Lakes Cancer Center. After a one-month wait and 12 more treatments, Mary would be done. She finished her treatments in May 2010 and has been cancer-free since.
Mary continues to see Dr. Brindle and Dr. Amin at Prairie Lakes Cancer Center for follow-up care.
"I still have blood drawn to check my levels, and I have a colonoscopy and CAT scan coming up, but I consider myself cured," Mary said. "It was awesome to do everything in Watertown. I couldn't imagine driving to Sioux Falls for treatments - the staff was wonderful, pleasant, helpful and answered all my questions."