It’s after 11 o’clock on a Friday night but broomball is just getting started for the Anthony Wayne SnowCones. Even at this late hour, Stephanie McConnell wouldn’t miss a chance to be with her family and watch her daughter, Kennedy, take the ice.
“I watch and I do everything I possibly can because I want to soak it all in, because I didn’t know then [that] I’d be here now,” said Stephanie. “I think every day how amazing that I’m able to see them.”
In 2006, Stephanie was working as a nurse, raising 5-year-old twins Kennedy and Zach, when she started having digestive issues. As a busy mom, she put off going to the doctor, but as a nurse, she realized treating herself wasn’t working. So she made an appointment with ProMedica colorectal surgeon Eilynn Sipe, MD.
“She came to me and instinctively she was worried there was something more going on, so that’s when we decided to do the colonoscopy,” explained Dr. Sipe.
“It’s a little foggy,” remembers Stephanie, “but I do remember her coming out and just her face told me this is cancer.'”
Stephanie was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer, which meant several months of grueling chemotherapy and two major surgeries to remove her colon–a tough road she traveled one day at a time.
“It’s a journey in every sense–spiritual, physical, emotional–it’s a journey of ‘What’s going to get me through this?'” explained Stephanie. “I used my family, my faith, my kids; knowing I needed to be here for them. I was 29 years old.”
Stephanie’s age made her diagnosis unusual. The vast majority of colon cancer patients are over 50, but a growing number of diagnoses in younger patients recently prompted the American Cancer Society to amend their cancer screening guidelines. American Cancer Society now recommends a first colonoscopy screening at age 45, and if no problems are detected, screenings every 5-10 years afterward, depending on your personal health history.
“The best treatment for colon cancer is prevention and the best prevention is colonoscopies.”
“The best treatment for colon cancer is prevention and the best prevention is colonoscopies,” said Dr. Sipe. “We always try to emphasize that not only is this one of the most preventable cancers, but one of the most treatable cancers, especially if it’s stage 1, it’s 90% curable.”
Now, an 11-year cancer survivor, Stephanie is living each day to the fullest with her now 17-year-old twins, her husband, Jon and stepkids, Lexy and Bailey. And she openly shares her story with others because she’s passionate about saving lives through colonoscopy screening.
“My message is no matter what you’re thinking, no matter what your concerns are about being checked out, especially for this type of cancer, the time is always now, don’t wait,” said Stephanie. “The time is now to make sure you’re going to be here for your family.”