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Conditional Survival from Colon Cancer: My Survival Odds Have Increased in the Last Four Years

Updated on November 28, 2015
Flora Crew profile image

Flo is a "professional student" with degrees in psychology and an associates in computer programming and operations.

Why I started thinking about conditional survival...

Cancer means different things to different people. We all bring our personality characteristics to our illnesses and our choices about our illnesses. I am not the Dean Ornish type A type nor am I the totally Ostrich stick-my-head-in-the sand type of person. When I was first diagnosed with colon cancer, I was told I had stage IV cancer. Eventually I looked that up on the web, and saw that for most people that meant an 8% chance of surviving 5 years. I wasn't too happy about the odds but immediately set out to do some of the things I had always wanted to do. I guess I am a little weird but finding out more about astronomy and organic chemistry were two of my goals. Another was to be a counselor. Still another was to be a teacher. Working on these goals has kept me busy.

Despite being involved in these endeavors, I did notice that I was still alive. That made me start thinking about the conditional probability of survival from colon cancer. By that I mean, what if I had already survived a year? Would that mean I had a better chance of living than I did right after diagnosis? In other words, did my odds change after having survived a certain amount of time?

The answer is yes, as you will find out below. As of this writing, my chances of surviving another five years have gone from eight percent to forty six percent in the last four years. If I live until next April, my odds of living another five years will increase to 57%. The road has been a bit rocky, but I am not as glum as I was previously.

Conditional Survival

Chances of Survival Increase afer Survival

Just as I suspected, chances of survival improve by just surviving. Eating healthy and exercising increase one's chance of surviving even more. Although some results are inconsistent, eating more fruits and vegetables is a good strategy as is getting one-half to one hour of aerobics a day. I have cut down on my soft drink and red meat consumption as well. Sometimes I lift weights but I have not been thorough in keeping up with that.

My oncologist did not tell me to cut out red meat but she did tell me to eat a plant based diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, a little dairy, and small pieces of meat. I studied both the Mediterranean diet and the paleolithic diet but thought the Mediterranean diet sounded more functional and realistic.

I was already an exercise nut before my cancer diagnosis, and I have been working exercise back into my schedule as much as I can.

Would you want to know your survival odds if you had cancer? - A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

Would you want to know your chances of survival?

See results

Exercise

Use it or lose it

I bike a lot and walk when the distance I am going is not challenging to bike. I try to go to the fitness center when I can. I read somewhere that skinny people are less efficient than fat people. So, I deliberately try to do things inefficiently like take out the garbage one bag at a time instead of two bags at a time. Sometimes, I take the stairs instead of the elevator. I might buy one or two items in the grocery store, walk them home and then go back for anything I forgot. (Having a bad memory is a great way to get in some extra steps particularly when you forget what you came into a room for. You go back to the room you came from to refresh your memory. Ha!) One exercise that is good for colon cancer survivors is squats - particularly when going to the bathroom. See the squatty potty video at the bottom of the page for more details. Exercise can be beneficial in sessions as short as 10 minutes each. In the mornings, I make my coffee by squatting beside the coffee pot to put the coffee in the coffeepot. Doing pushups against the wall can also help. As far as helping with weight control, fidgeting counts as exercise and so does shivering!

Healthy Soup
Healthy Soup

Diet and Survival

Eating for good health

Before I had cancer, I was a hamburger and hot dog person mostly although I had tried to eat vegetarian during one period in which I found out I had high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Now I am more prudent. I eat less beef, pork and processed meat. I eat beans, chicken and turkey. I try to eat oatmeal, whole grain breads and brown rice. I eat nuts and peanut butter. I am actually thinking about buying a nut butter machine. I have cut down on soft drinks and other sugary drinks. I eat more fruit but less fruit juices. I eat fresh salads, soy products and lots of tuna and sardines.

People used to recommend vitamins and supplements to prevent cancer but as the data comes in, the evidence is that whole foods are the best foods to eat because when you try to isolate ingredients you might also isolate health benefits of the whole foods. Coffee is in these days as is red wine. Because I had a problem with alcohol in my youth, I don't drink alcohol but I do drink coffee a lot. Since I drink it straight without sugar or cream, it is also a good substitute for the soft drinks I used to guzzle down. Apparently from a recent article in the "New York Times", coffee drinking improves survival odds for people who have colon cancer. I also drink tea usually hot black but sometimes green tea as an alternative to coffee. I try to eat my calories rather than drink them. I am lazy about food but will peel an orange or tangerine now.

This is a comglomorate of ideas gleaned from others. Depending on how healthy you want to be and how much you can afford, you can use rolled oats or whole oats chipped into little pieces or quick oats.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 2 apples chopped with skin left on
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • brown sugar to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Instructions

  1. Mix water, cinnamon, apples and brown sugar.
  2. Boil for fifteen minutes.
  3. Add Oats.
  4. Simmer until desired thickness is reached.
  5. Add walnuts and stir.
Cast your vote for Anti-cancer, anti-chlosterol breakfast

Sleep, Rest and Emotions

Of Mind and Matter

Getting enough sleep is very important for me. I have read that retired older people get more sleep and take better care of their health than their working counterparts. I believe that! Getting exercise helps me to sleep. So riding my bike is good sleeping medicine too. Sleeping in the buff is recommended by the AARP.

I have a spiritual group that I meet with on a semi-regular basis. Although I do not have strong theoretical beliefs, I do think spirituality is a plus in survival.

I also see my psychiatrist regularly, talk to my friends and try to keep my stress level down. One thing I learned in a 12th step program was not to get too hungry, too angry, too lonely or too tired. They called it "HALT". I guess I could definitely use some anger management at times.

Followup Tests

A Must!

One important feature of being a colon cancer survivor is to do followups. This includes tests for colon cancer but also tests for other kinds of cancer since having one kind of cancer increases the probability of developing another kind of cancer particularly if one does chemotherapy or radiation as part of their cancer treatment. I have had a chest x-ray and a mammogram recently. My life does not revolve around going to see my doctors but they are an important part of my life.

Sojoourner Covenet Church in Evanston
Sojoourner Covenet Church in Evanston

Spirituality

Even for atheists

Has anyone else appreciated Pope Francis' reaching out to atheists? We all have spiritual needs regardless of our religious beliefs. Having a cancer diagnosis has tuned me in to spirituality more. Below are some moving scenes of church architecture in Evanston.

Don't get me wrong now. As a former Southern Baptist, I am subject to another foxhole conversion in the future. Even some religious people have trouble with spirituality if it interferes with their preconceived notion of God or religion. So there!

Churches in Evanston - Little Rome

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A church steeple in Evanston during a storm.A Normandy defense against the storm.Lake Street Baptist on a dreary Saturday.Another view of the stormy but churchy sky on a Saturday.Lake Street Church Steeple on a sunnier day!
A church steeple in Evanston during a storm.
A church steeple in Evanston during a storm.
A Normandy defense against the storm.
A Normandy defense against the storm.
Lake Street Baptist on a dreary Saturday.
Lake Street Baptist on a dreary Saturday.
Another view of the stormy but churchy sky on a Saturday.
Another view of the stormy but churchy sky on a Saturday.
Lake Street Church Steeple on a sunnier day!
Lake Street Church Steeple on a sunnier day!

Books on Amazon Related to Surviving Cancer - Expert or Experienced

I looked at the books on Amazon to see what I thought would be good choices on the topic of surviving cancer.

Do you squat to poop? - Squatting vs Sitting

Lung Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

After my colon cancer diagnosis, I was subjected to many tests and procedures as standard follow-up. On a CT Scan a couple of years ago, the doctors saw a small spot. They watched it for awhile. It was moving too slow to be a virus and too fast to be benign. Last summer I had a biopsy and the growth was malignant. On September 2, 2014, the lower lobe of my right lung was removed. Here is a picture of my shortly after the operation. I was on oxygen for awhile after the operation but am past the six month survival for that now, and back walking if not biking.


A Selfie after Removal of the Lower Right Lobe of My Lungs

Three and a half years later....Oxford House

When I had part of my right lung removed, I got a little discombobulated. I stayed at an Oxford House on the Southside of Chicago. Although having cancer did not "drive me to drink," I decided that a sober living place would help keep my thoughts in the right direction.

Regaining cautious optimism.

A recent picture I took of myself.
A recent picture I took of myself. | Source

Brittle Bones

A few months ago, I had another temporary setback. I was responding to a fire drill, and I tripped on the snowy concrete steps where I lived. Ordinarily, I would have only a sore butt but because of my brittle bones, I fractured one or more vertebrae in my spine. Of course being thin in my youth and smoking cigarettes heavily until I was 47 probably contributed but so did chemotherapy as I have discovered though searching for information on the topic. It has been over six months now since the deed, and I am back at the gym.

Four Years Later: Five Year Reprieve From Colonoscopies

Good news. I had a followup colonoscopy on Thursday. Not only was there no cancer, I didn't even have any polyps. Boy, was I happy. The lung surgery kind of took the wind out of me, pun intended, and it was good to get some good news. The surgeon said I did not have to have another colonoscopy for five more years!

Blending vs Juicing

Recently I purchased a blender from Ace Hardware. It was only $35.00, and I have been wearing it out. I am making vegetable and fruit smoothies. I know a lot of people are in to juicing but since I have bad teeth, I am letting the blender do the chewing for me, and am drinking my fruits and vegetables. So far, I have used kale, spinach, ginger, bananas, strawberries, almond milk, celery, and peaches in various combinations. Oh yes, I sometimes add a little neem honey which has anti-inflamatory properties.

Blender Products

Here is a mixture of fruits and vegetables before being blended.  I have started adding more vegetables as I have gotten more experience.
Here is a mixture of fruits and vegetables before being blended. I have started adding more vegetables as I have gotten more experience. | Source
When I first started with the blender, I got more of a mush than a liquid.  So, I had "smoothie butter" on my toast.  I have figured out how to add juice or water or skim milk to get a more liquidity mixture now.
When I first started with the blender, I got more of a mush than a liquid. So, I had "smoothie butter" on my toast. I have figured out how to add juice or water or skim milk to get a more liquidity mixture now. | Source

New Job Training

I am working on my CADC at Oakton Community College, and am doing an internship at The Women's Treatment Center at 140 N. Ashland in Chicago, IL. I go there three days a week, and am enjoying working with the women. At first I worked on the detox unit. Now I am on a residential unit that houses women with children for their treatment.

Let me hear from you! - Your opinions on the big C or other challenges are welcome!

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    • Flora Crew profile image
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      Flora Crew 2 years ago from Evanston, Illinois

      Hi Gwaag. Yes, it hurt. It has been about 10 weeks now since it happened. I am mostly back to normal but the muscles around where I broke it stay sore.

    • gwaag profile image

      gwaag 2 years ago from Sun Valley, California

      YOu broke your vertebrae? Ouch Flo.

    • Flora Crew profile image
      Author

      Flora Crew 2 years ago from Evanston, Illinois

      Thanks gwaag. I will be careful. Ha!

    • gwaag profile image

      gwaag 2 years ago from Sun Valley, California

      I think I went in a time warp again Flo. Excellent article. Where's Oxford House? Those aa people will drive ya to drink!

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 3 years ago from New Zealand

      All the best for your future, I hope you stay in good health as you seem to be at the moment, being positive is a great thing. Happy days writing.

    • Flora Crew profile image
      Author

      Flora Crew 3 years ago from Evanston, Illinois

      @norma-holt: Sounds interesting. I will definitely check out your work.

      Thanks for your encouragement.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 3 years ago

      Very pleased to meet you through your lens and your condition. You mention spirituality and as a spiritual person I can honestly say you don't find salvation in religion. You might like to explore some of my lenses on that subject. Cancer is not a problem for the real God and often people get conditions to make them change their thinking, just as you changed your diet.

    • Flora Crew profile image
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      Flora Crew 3 years ago from Evanston, Illinois

      @Lynn Klobuchar: Thank you, Lynn!

    • Lynn Klobuchar profile image

      Lynn Klobuchar 3 years ago from Minneapolis, Minnesota

      The very best to you!

    • Flora Crew profile image
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      Flora Crew 3 years ago from Evanston, Illinois

      @junecampbell: Thank you, and you as well!

    • junecampbell profile image

      June Campbell 3 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      Sending you healing wishes and blessings for a long and happy life!

    • Flora Crew profile image
      Author

      Flora Crew 3 years ago from Evanston, Illinois

      Thank you partybuzz for your generous likes and comments!

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 3 years ago from Concord VA

      Just scrolled down and watched the Squatty Potty video. Very interesting concept.

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 3 years ago from Concord VA

      Enjoyed your lens. I think your positive attutude will take you far. I get a lot of extra exercise because of the memory issue also. :)

    • Flora Crew profile image
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      Flora Crew 3 years ago from Evanston, Illinois

      @SusanDeppner: Thank you for surviving and for sharing that with us, and for squid liking my lens! Hugs!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 3 years ago from Arkansas USA

      The only good thing about a cancer diagnosis (I can't imagine that there's more than one thing good about it) is that it gives us a reason to do things we might not otherwise have done, including improving our health. I love what you said about "chances of survival improve by just surviving.." That is so very true! I'm a 4-year survivor (so far) and still have lots left to do. Thanks for your very encouraging lens!

    • Flora Crew profile image
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      Flora Crew 3 years ago from Evanston, Illinois

      @Babu Mohan: Thank you, oh-man, that is very kind.

    • Babu Mohan profile image

      Mohan Babu 3 years ago from Chennai, India

      Very inspiring to read the many positive things you are doing. I wish you stay healthy for long and keep sharing your wealth of knowledge and wisdom with us.

    • Flora Crew profile image
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      Flora Crew 3 years ago from Evanston, Illinois

      @PAINTDRIPS: Thanks, Denise!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 3 years ago from Fresno CA

      I love the encouraging voice of your lens. You have strength and purpose, it seems that is one of things that has giving you longevity you were looking for. Goals are very important to everyone. I'm so impressed with your courage too. You're my hero.

    • Flora Crew profile image
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      Flora Crew 3 years ago from Evanston, Illinois

      @Diana Wenzel: Thank you. I am glad your mother is beating the odds as well. It definitely changes one's perspective!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 3 years ago from Colorado

      My mother has been battling four different forms of cancer. I so admire her spirit in taking it one day at a time. She keeps defying the odds. I see her strength and am amazed at what the power of positive thinking and doing can do. Upon her first diagnosis, we never expected such longevity. I'm glad everyone was proven wrong. Wishing you continuing strength for your journey.

    • Flora Crew profile image
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      Flora Crew 3 years ago from Evanston, Illinois

      @The_Kelster: Thank you. I appreciate your support.

    • paulahite profile image

      Paula Hite 3 years ago from Virginia

      I admire your attitude and approach. Thank you for sharing and keep up the good work!

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      The_Kelster 3 years ago

      Really inspiring; I really enjoyed reading your lens and I am also thankful that you chose to share this! :)

    • Flora Crew profile image
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      Flora Crew 3 years ago from Evanston, Illinois

      @paulahite: Thanks. I did the opposite of you, I came from Mobile, Alabama to live in the Chicago area about 30 years ago. I have enjoyed looking at your work.

    • Flora Crew profile image
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      Flora Crew 3 years ago from Evanston, Illinois

      @Wingersiow LM: Thanks. I know more about it than I ever want to. Ha!

    • Flora Crew profile image
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      Flora Crew 3 years ago from Evanston, Illinois

      @paulahite: Thank you. It gets easier the longer I put the bad news part behind.

    • Wingersiow LM profile image

      Wingersiow LM 3 years ago

      Great lens! I don't really know much about the big C but I'm sure a 'can do' approach must help.