A mom spent 2 years taking care of her sick daughter. She thought she was just stressed but then discovered she had stage 4 colon cancer and died.
- Aly Anderson had spent two years caring for her daughter who had been born with a heart condition.
- She told a friend she'd been having stomach pain but couldn't see a doctor without insurance.
In March 2020, Allison Fadden's childhood friend, Aly Anderson, came to Seattle to take her daughter to an appointment at a hospital in the city.
While the two friends caught up over lunch, Anderson said she hadn't been feeling well lately.
"She said she thought she had an ulcer because she'd been having stomach pain," Fadden said. "But she thought it was all stress-related."
Anderson had been under incredible stress after two years of trying to keep her baby alive. Her third child, Lila, had been born in 2018 with a congenital heart condition. As doctors at Seattle Children' Hospital did everything they could to save Lila's life, Anderson tried to take care of her newborn baby and her two other children. She had worked as a barista and yoga instructor, but she had to stop working to take care of her family during a tumultuous time.
She didn't have insurance, so she couldn't be seen by doctors
"She was exhausted and stressed," Fadden said. Concerned about her friend, she asked if Anderson had seen a doctor about the stomach pains.
"She said she didn't have health insurance — that it was really expensive," recalled Fadden.
Although Anderson's husband and children had private insurance, when she stopped working to take care of Lila's health needs, she was no longer insured for medical treatment. Since she was young and healthy, she opted out of her husband's insurance to save money.
"She figured she would be the last person who would need insurance," Fadden said. "I think her own health was on the back burner."
Taylor Stonack, another of Anderson's friends, described her symptoms as severe stomach pain, vomiting a lot, and loss of appetite. "We all thought it was just stress," Stonack said.
She was diagnosed with colon cancer
Two months later, in May 2020, Aly phoned Allison to say she was throwing up from what she believed to be an ulcer and that she was getting her husband to take her to the hospital.
After running scans, the doctors delivered the frightening news. Aly had cancer. Following more scans, doctors diagnosed her with Stage 4 colon cancer.
Colon cancer, which starts in the colon, typically as a polyp or growth on the inner lining of the colon, is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the US and the second most common cause of cancer deaths among men and women.
Symptoms may include a change in bowel habits, pressure in the bowels, bleeding during bowel movements, stomach cramping, and unexplained weight loss.
"Unfortunately, many of these symptoms can be attributed to a host of other reasons or diseases, so we are always looking for what's abnormal," said Shanel Bhagwandin, Medical Director of the Gastrointestinal Surgical Oncology Program and Vice Chief of Surgery at Jupiter Medical Center. "Often, colorectal cancers don't have many or any symptoms until it has grown or spread which is why it is highly recommended that you know your personal risk factors for colorectal cancers and when you should start screening with a colonoscopy. Removing pre-cancerous growths is one of the best ways to ensure the disease does not develop," Bhagwandin said.
Bhagwandin said the best thing a person can do to remove much of the risk of colon cancer progressing is to get a colonoscopy.
"While it isn't something anyone wants to do, the main message is that we highly recommend colonoscopies as a screening tool to detect colorectal cancers," Bhagwandin said. "They can save lives."
Stonack doesn't think that having insurance would've changed anything in Aly's story. "Insurance is a luxury for many, but with the screening age for colon cancer being 45, we aren't sure that it would have made a difference, and it didn't run in Aly's family where they could have advocated for earlier screening," Stonack said.
She died in 2023
"She fought like hell," said Fadden about her friend Aly. "She had 56 rounds of chemo over three years."
After battling with the state and insurance companies to get her own treatment and care for three years, Aly died at the beginning of March 2023.
Stonack added, "Aly's biggest wish from this is to help others by advocating for yourself for early screening or to just schedule your Colon Screening the day you turn 45."
- Survey shows people find no improvement in public toilets across country
- Sebi extends deadline for listed cos to confirm or deny market rumours
- Tom Hanks, a dental plan promotion and an AI
- New 'inverse vaccine' shows potential to treat multiple sclerosis, diabetes: Study
- TDP leaders stage hunger strike In Delhi against arrest of Chandrababu Naidu