At the young age of 26, Joanne Kirkland started to notice worrying symptoms of blood in her stool. Brushing it off as nothing serious due to her age Joanne went back to normal life. Several months later, after the blood became more prevalent, Joanne sought medical attention, only to be told again that she was too young for something to be seriously wrong. Thankfully, Joanne pressed on to undergo a colonoscopy – a decision that would change her life forever.
“Deep down I knew that I had cancer, but nothing prepares you for when you actually hear those words,” says Joanne. “I remember just laying on the hospital bed tears streaming down my face. After allowing myself to feel and cry I remember thinking…f***, how am I going to tell my family and friends?”.
After her Stage III rectal cancer diagnosis, Joanne underwent IVF treatments to freeze her eggs as insurance in the likely event of reproductive issues after treatment. Soon after, she started on a gruelling journey that saw 28 radiation sessions and 6 chemo sessions through BC Cancer – Vancouver. In August of 2018, Joanne completed treatment and began her transition to a ‘new normal’.
“The radiologists and technicians seemed to be the face of my treatments with BC cancer, they were some of the friendliest people to deal with, always smiling, always helpful. Made my early morning sessions just slightly less draining, which helps.”
Today, at 29-years-old, Joanne is passionate about raising rectal and colon cancer awareness among young people and encouraging others to listen to their bodies and advocate for their health.
“My hope is that, for colorectal cancer especially, people stop knowing this as only an ‘old persons disease’,” says Joanne. “There is so much awareness out there for young people and breast cancer screening, but not the same for colorectal cancer which is only growing more and more common due to numerous factors.”
As Joanne reflects on her journey at BC Cancer, she wants to remind other patients to keep concentrated on the now and take the journey one step at a time.
“Concentrate on the now, one day, one step at a time. Surround yourself with good quality, solid, supportive people. LEAN ON THEM and don’t try and accomplish everything by yourself. Allow yourself to feel the bad days but don’t forget to look for whatever positives you can in every day.”
We congratulate Joanne on her continued success and thank her for sharing her story.
To learn more about how you can directly support colon cancer research and treatment at BC Cancer, please contact Elissa at Elissa.Morrissette@bccancer.bc.ca