colon cancer screening
The Preventive Health Issue

A Preventive Colon Cancer Screening Saved My Life

Barbara Klein shares her journey with colon cancer

Meet the Author

Barbara Klein was diagnosed with Stage 1 Colon Cancer after getting a preventive screening. Ever since her surgery five years ago, she has been cancer-free and advocates for regular screenings.

You never think bad things will happen to you. 

About five years ago, I was a 60-year-old caught up in life, driving my school bus and fulfilling my church obligations.

I felt healthy, so I didn’t think about my health. I had no family history of colon cancer or any symptoms, so I ignored the casual recommendations to get screenings because I just didn’t have time for that.

And then, one of my friends, who was 20 years younger than me, was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. She was very open about her fears of not being there to see her two boys get married and have her grandchildren.

It broke my heart. I have a family that needs me, too. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I decided to stop putting off screenings.

Barbara Klein

Photo Courtesy of Barbara Klein / Designed by Don Eschenauer and Jaime Yong

Taking My Health Into My Hands

I asked my primary care doctor at Riverside Medical Group to order me Cologuard. It was advertised as an easy at-home test to check your colon health. There was no prep nor any hassle. 

Admittedly, I assumed this test would come back normal, and I could move on with my life. But I got a call from my doctor saying that the results showed some sort of issue. He assured me that this didn’t mean I had cancer; it just meant that I needed to get a colonoscopy to investigate further. 

Nowadays, the prep for a colonoscopy is easy, and the procedure is painless.

Nowadays, the prep for a colonoscopy is easy, and the procedure is painless. During the procedure, the doctor found two large polyps, which he removed and sent for testing. 

Due to the size of the polys, my doctor was concerned, but he wanted to wait for the lab results before assuming anything. Waiting for those results was the hardest thing. I was terrified.

I was out to dinner with my husband when I got the news. I heard "stage 1 colon cancer," and I don’t think I heard much else. You hear "cancer" and your mind races or goes numb.

My doctor said that I did have cancer and that my situation would require some surgery. He explained that they could go in and take out a part of my colon and resection it back. He seemed confident, and I was relieved that I didn’t have to do chemotherapy.

The surgery went well. The surgeon went in laparoscopically, making a small incision on my belly button, and removed a portion of my colon along with 30 lymph nodes.

Advocating for Regular Screenings

It’s been about five years since my surgery. I get my regular screenings and tests. Thankfully, everything has been OK.

I look back and thank God for my friend, who was not as lucky as me. She passed away in 2018 after a hard fight. I made so many excuses not to get tested. I didn’t want to inconvenience my family or students, so I didn’t. Moms always put themselves last.

This experience gave me new boundaries. I’m making the time for myself, and I’m not feeling selfish for doing it either. I can prioritize my health without feeling like I deny others.

Screenings help avoid unnecessary fear down the road. Many of us think we are healthy, but we don’t know unless we get regular screenings. 

I’m more aware of my health and what I can do to be the best that I can be because there is no excuse. There's technology out there. The screenings are easy.

I’m 65 now—what if I had waited five more years? My story might be different.

My advice would be to get checked before you have symptoms. Screenings help avoid unnecessary fear down the road. Many of us think we are healthy, but we don’t know unless we get regular screenings.

My cancer was probably growing in me for a long time. Take control of your health now, so you don’t have to wish you did later.

By Barbara Klein
Barbara Klein is a colon cancer survivor and advocate for preventive cancer screenings