Leslie Manners has always taken her health and fitness seriously. The 42 year-old mother of two boys, Max and Body, was a regular at the Tillamook YMCA, often working-out five days a week.
She ate healthy foods and gently pushed her fishing guide husband, “Big Dave,” of Big Dave’s Fishing Adventures, to also make positive eating choices. So, when she noticed blood in her stool two years ago, she didn’t think much of it. At her annual OB-GYN check-up, she mentioned it and was referred to a gastrointestinal specialist for follow-up. Because of a family history of polyps in Leslie’s family history, a colonoscopy was also scheduled.
“I scheduled it for three months later in September, when my husband would be back from fishing in Alaska,” Manners said. It was during that screening that a large tumor was found in her rectum. Doctors told Leslie that surgery to remove the tumor would be necessary, but a biopsy would be completed before they scheduled the surgery. “A few days later, the results came back as non-cancerous.” Yet, that seemingly positive prognosis was short lived.
Doctors scheduled a pre-operation lower endoscopy and Leslie had a friend drive her to the appointment, thinking it would be another routine procedure. “When I woke up from the screening, the doctor came and told me that it was cancer and that the roots of the tumor had penetrated into the colon wall.” In addition to surgery to remove the tumor, Leslie was told she would also need radiation and chemotherapy. As expected, the diagnosis was devastating. “I was in complete shock. I was doing everything I thought I should be doing - I didn’t eat red meat, spent five days a week at the gym - it didn’t make sense.” Leslie began praying every day for help and guidance.
A CAT scan revealed that Leslie had Stage 3 colon cancer and it had spread to two of her lymph nodes. A PET scan then showed Leslie had a nodule in her thyroid which was stage 1 cancer, but curable. “I remember asking, why me? But then I said, why not me? At the time, it didn’t make sense, but later, you think, maybe there is a reason for it.” And with that, the fight was on.
Chemotherapy, radiation, Western medicine, Eastern medicine, supplements, genetic testing, medication trials, naturopathic therapies - nothing was off the table. Leslie was determined to do everything she could to fight the cancer and felt fortunate to have the ability to pursue multiple treatment options - if not just for her, then for her family. “I went to a practitioner of Chinese medicine. I switched to a plant-based organic diet and I juiced everyday, spending more for organic veggies and vitamin C IV therapy and mistletoe injections.” Leslie’s battle would be financially taxing, but the family pressed on. “Insurance doesn’t cover holistic treatments at this time.” Leslie’s journey provides an important reminder that early detection and prevention is key to saving money and lives.
It is recommended that, with any colorectal cancer diagnosis, other family members also get screened. Leslie was advised that her family members should be screened 10 years prior to the age Leslie was at her diagnosis. In what seems to be a recurring theme in colorectal cancer diagnoses, screening often does more than just save one life, and with Leslie’s story, this rings true. “My sister Julie had turned 50. She got screened and they found three polyps. One of them was Stage 1 cancer and was treatable. My screening and diagnosis saved my sister’s life.”
The side effects of the chemo and radiation can be brutal. However, Leslie credits her full-court press on her cancer - the homeopathic therapies, acupuncture, massage, yoga, the diet and exercise regime, traditional medical interventions, her faith and cancer support group - as a huge influence on her being alive today. “At one point during chemotherapy, the oncologist said to me, ‘You are the healthiest cancer patient that I have right now.” As with any health challenge, maintaining a positive outlook and having a network of support are tied to better outcomes.
The battle continues for Leslie, but her determination has only grown stronger. “In October I had a CT scan which was clear. My colonoscopy in December was also clear.” Leslie believes that talking about colorectal cancer screening is important, and that with knowledge, you are much better equipped to deal with a diagnosis if it ever occurs.
“I would say, slow down. You didn’t get it overnight. Change your diet immediately, then network, research and look outside the box. Have the will and have faith. And get screened, because screening is easy, and early screening saved my life.”
Colorectal cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths. And it is the most preventable. Any person, age 50-75, should be screened. Contact your healthcare provider to schedule your screening and to find out if you are eligible for a $25.00 gift card*.
*For individuals that are currently due for screenings or have never been screened. Screening must be completed by May 31, 2020. Gift cards will be mailed upon verification of completion of screening.
For more local health and wellness information, visit tillamookcountyhealthmatters.org or follow Tillamook County Wellness on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.