Your Health Lindsay Guinaugh | 7 years ago

Overcoming Colon Cancer – Rita's Story

It’s been two years since Rita Bendetto, an active 60-year-old mother and grandmother, was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer.

Rita had never been one to regularly visit the doctor, so it was only after her daughter insisted that Rita agreed to get a routine checkup. Everything seemed fine until Rita and her daughter were driving home after Rita’s appointment, and got a call from the doctor’s office. A nurse told them to stay calm and pull over. Blood test results showed Rita’s hemoglobin levels were dangerously low. She needed to get to the ER right away. Shortly after arriving at Carolinas Medical Center’s Emergency Department, Rita was given a work up and a CT scan revealed a large mass in her colon. “Once my tumor was found, my team of doctors flew into action and the ball started rolling fast,” she said. “I went into the ER on Friday and by Monday I was in surgery.” Rita was fortunate. Her surgery went smoothly and she recovered well. After going through 12 rounds of chemotherapy, Rita is now cancer-free.

“When you’re told you have stage IV colon cancer, it seems like a death sentence. But it wasn’t,” Rita said. “I had the most marvelous surgeon, and the whole team was stellar - the staff, the nurses, everybody. I was so well cared for and informed. They truly made me feel like I was the only patient at that hospital.”

Rita had never had a colonoscopy screening so her colon cancer was found at an advanced stage. “While [Rita’s] surgery was successful and she continues to do very well, we hope to catch cancers before they spread,” said Joshua Hill, MD, surgical oncologist at Carolinas HealthCare System’s Levine Cancer Institute. “Our goal is to prevent them from forming at all. This is why screenings such as colonoscopies are so important.” Now, Rita gets routine colonoscopies as part of her preventative health and she can’t believe how easy there are. “When I finally went to the ‘dreaded’ colonoscopy – it was so simple,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. Never listen to anyone who says it’s a horrible experience. And I can’t help but think, if I’d only gotten one earlier, most of this could have been avoided.”