When Margaret Lowery found out she had colon cancer, she hadn’t experienced any symptoms. She didn’t like the idea of a colonoscopy so she put it off for years. However, she did use the FIT test, an at-home screening tool that can detect blood in the stool.
After a recent FIT test she took discovered blood, Margaret overcame her fears and had a colonoscopy, which found her colorectal cancer. A PET scan showed the cancer had spread to a spot on her liver, meaning her cancer was stage 4.
About a week after her diagnosis, she saw a story on TV about Wilmot Cancer Institute’s Survivors Night at Frontier Field. Scores of people were sporting blue Wilmot shirts. That really inspired her.
“I saw the shirts and I watched it and it showed a lot of people on the field,” she says. “They explained about it and I thought, ‘Hey, that would be a good goal, to get the T-shirt and be on the Red Wings field.’”
Soon after, discussions around treatment began. She felt well-supported by her oncology team.
“My team was very good to tell me. I said, ‘I don’t like surprises so just tell me everything that you think might happen’ and I really appreciated that,” she says.
First, under Mohamedtaki A. Tejani, M.D., medical oncologist, she had six rounds of chemotherapy. She felt the nurses at Wilmot’s Infusion Center provided high-quality care.
“They’re unbelievable,” she says. “They come in and before they can give you the chemo, there’s two nurses and they double check each other. It’s so good.”
She didn’t experience much as far as side effects from those rounds of chemo, except one particularly pesky thing: Water started tasting awful, like motor oil. Luckily, she had support from family and friends who encouraged her to stay hydrated by finding creative ways to get water.
After finishing her six chemo treatments, she had 10 radiation therapy treatments under Haoming Qiu, M.D. Then, in January 2018, it was time for surgery with Rabih Salloum, M.D., colorectal surgeon. Qiu Rachel and Rachel
He performed a minimally invasive laparoscopic right hemicolectomy, removing about one-third of Margaret’s colon. Her surgery took about 90 minutes and used smaller incisions, which helped speed recovery time compared to other types of colon surgery. Margaret spent three days in the hospital after surgery and felt impressed both by her recovery time – she was up and walking the day after surgery – and by the fact that she doesn’t have much scarring.
“I’m used to someone with that happening, they’d be in the hospital for two weeks, they couldn’t move for a week, so it’s amazing,” she says.
Now that she’s recovered from surgery, she’s undergoing more chemotherapy to hopefully get rid of any lingering cancer. Through it all, Margaret says her family has been extremely supportive and has helped her stay busy. For example, before she started chemo, Margaret went on a day trip to the Finger Lakes, where she and her family hiked and enjoyed dinner.
“That really helped distracting her and going into it in a good mood,” says Margaret’s daughter, Rebecca Lowery. “I think having something to look forward to leading up to it was helpful.”
After everything she’s been through, Margaret doesn’t let herself get down. She knows she can’t change the past or her decision to wait to get a colonoscopy, but she looks toward the future and encourages anyone she can to get a colonoscopy when appropriate, hoping to ease others’ fears because now she knows it wasn’t too bad.
“I thought, ‘I put this off and it was no more trouble than this?’ So I’ve been telling my family and friends: colonoscopy, colonoscopy,” she says. “You should try to do anything that you can. To catch it early is so important.”
As Margaret continues her treatment, she feels confident because of her team, who have said they have more options ready to consider if the chemo isn’t successful for the spot on Margaret’s liver. Which is good, because Margaret is looking forward to a trip to Cape Cod in the near future and, of course, Wilmot’s Survivors Night at Frontier Field in August.
“I love fireworks and boy, do the Red Wings know how to do fireworks,” she says.