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Colon Cancer Survivor

Mona Coyle

  • Experienced gastrointestinal bleeding for several years
  • First colonoscopy and diagnosed with colon cancer at age 39
  • Treated with surgery
  • Metastasis one year later to the lung
  • Treated with chemotherapy and two lung surgeries at SCCA
  • No evidence of disease in May 2012

“Who thinks in their mid-twenties about colon cancer?” Looking back at her experience with cancer, Mona Coyle says that the really sad thing was that she’d been having symptoms for a decade before she was diagnosed. “I thought it was normal for me to have blood in my bowel movements.”

In December 2005, Mona at her doctor’s office reporting there was more blood than the year before, and it was a new color. The next week, she was seeing a gastroenterologist, and the week after that she had her first colonoscopy. In January 2006, she had surgery to remove a tumor from her colon.

Recurrence

After surgery, Mona had blood work and a CT (computed tomography) scan every three months, with an X-ray once a year to monitor for any recurrence. About a year or so later, her oncologist saw a small spot on her lung that hadn’t been there a few months before. “It was tiny,” Mona says. “It could be naturally occurring. We kept an eye on it and finally decided it was big enough to biopsy.” The biopsy showed the tumor was genetically identical to the colon tumor that had been removed the year before.

Now that her cancer had returned, Mona decided to get a second opinion and started interviewing other oncologists to get their ideas on what to do next.  She finally settled on Seattle Cancer Care Alliance’s Edward Lin, MD

Treatment

Under Dr. Lin’s care, Mona was treated with irinotecan and bevacizumab (Avastin) for seven months from December 2009 to June 2010, and then maintenance chemotherapy with capecitabine (Xeloda) and celecoxib. Then with Douglas Wood, MD, she had two lung surgeries: on the right side in December 2011, followed by the left in January 2012, with time to recover in between.

Today Mona still takes Xeloda during the week with weekends off. “It’s a nice ‘peace-of-mind’ chemo that I am tolerating well.” She also gets CT scans every four months.

After her first diagnosis, Mona learned how to run. She went on to run 5Ks and was training to run a marathon before she had to have lung surgeries. Now she’s ramping up to start putting on the miles for a half marathon in 2013.

Between her working hours at Microsoft in business administration, Mona spends time with her husband and their two dogs. “I’ve sort of given up on figuring out what I want to do with my life (a.k.a. having a master plan). I’ve gotten a bit of zen in that I just want to be happy and fulfilled with what I’m doing.” 

What Mona most likes about SCCA is the personalized treatment she received. “The regional places are going to treat you with standard care. At SCCA they’re going to personalize the treatment and they aren’t afraid to try new things.” She also appreciates the overall positive feeling she gets from coming here, “The staff at the main desk, the people volunteering in the gift shop, the cleaning staff; they enjoy what they do and it makes a world of difference to be in a place that is so positive.”

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