Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas Patient Engagement Coordinator Lora Wilson.

Talk about your colon health: Colorectal cancer survivor encourages people to talk  

Lora Wilson has made it her mission to share about her colorectal cancer any time someone asks.   

“When people ask me about it, they get really quiet,” says Lora, a colorectal cancer survivor and Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas patient engagement coordinator. “They ask if I mind talking about it even though where it’s at, and I say yes. It’s a disease; it’s a sickness. I understand it’s uncomfortable to talk about, and that’s why I decided to share.” 

Having cancer can impact the patient and their families, not only physically but mentally and financially. Lora believes the more people talk about colorectal cancer, the more they will see that there is a huge need for support and funding for those living with this cancer.   

Colorectal cancer is one of the top four cancers diagnosed in men and women in the United States. Colon and rectal cancer are the third leading cause of death. Lifetime risk for developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 23 for men and 1 in 26 for women.  

Lora encourages everyone to get their colorectal screening on time.  

“I just tell it how it is; go get those colonoscopies,” she says.  

Based on the most recent recommendations from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, adults aged 45 to 75 should be screened for colorectal cancer. The decision to be screened between 76 and 85 should be made individually. People who are older than 75 should speak to their provider about screening. People who are at an increased risk of getting colorectal cancer should talk to their provider about when to begin screening, how often and which test is right for them.  

There are several types of colorectal screening. A colonoscopy — done every 10 years — uses a scope to look for and remove abnormal growths in the colon and rectum. If polyps are removed during a colonoscopy, the surgeon may recommend a repeat colonoscopy sooner than 10 years.  

Then there is Cologuard or Stool DNA — done every three years based on findings — which finds abnormal DNA and blood in stool for adults aged 45 and older at average risk. Then there is FIT/FOBT (fecal occult blood test) — done yearly based on findings — which detects blood in the stool for adults at average risk. A colonoscopy is recommended if the Cologuard and FIT/FOTB are positive. Check with your provider to see which option is right for you.  

The diagnosis  

Lora knew she needed to schedule a colonoscopy. Her mother had polyps but no cancer and because of that, Lora’s provider suggested that she should get colonoscopies earlier to check for polyps because there’s a chance that they could become cancerous if not removed.   

For one reason or another, she put off scheduling her colonoscopy. Two years after her suggested date, she was working at a cancer center, and after scheduling a patient’s colonoscopy over the phone, she decided to schedule her own—and she’s glad she did.   

Lora, who was 41 at the time, went into the colonoscopy procedure with little worries. She had no symptoms, aside from some fatigue, which she mostly chalked up to being a mother and grandmother.   

She woke up in a personal recovery room and asked her husband about what the doctor said, but he hadn’t spoken with him yet. Shortly after, a nurse came in to draw blood and told her the doctor would visit her soon. Lora had a gut feeling something must have been found.   

She was right.   

“The doctor came around the corner and said, ‘I’m 99 percent sure you have cancer’,” Lora says. He collected a sample during the colonoscopy and sent it off for a biopsy. It took just a few days but felt like forever for Lora.  She had to go back in for surgery to remove the tumor. 

Her diagnosis: stage 3 colorectal cancer.  

It wasn’t a textbook case either, Lora says, adding that they had to take it to a tumor board. “They told me that if I waited six more months for the tests, I would’ve been on palliative care,” she says.   


Lora scheduled her colonoscopy in February 2022, went in for the procedure in May, and by June started her cancer treatment.   

She had 12 rounds of treatments. On the same day, she had a six-hour treatment and then a chemotherapy treatment via infusion pump for three days. Lora got a weeklong break and then started the process over again for three months. After this set of treatments was over, Lora started another, which included radiation therapy and a different type of chemotherapy, which was in pill form.   

At this moment, she’s had one year without any active cancer.  

Cancer, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery still affect Lora, both physically and mentally. Lora got nerve damage from her treatment, but thankfully, after surgery on her hands, she is doing well. She nearly lost her eyesight during treatment, but it has come back since. Another thing she didn’t expect was weight gain.  

Spreading awareness  

Lora says she feels blessed to have felt well enough to work during treatment as her employment held her insurance, and her family needed the income — a devastating issue for many patients.   

“I just sat at my desk and did the best I could,” she says. I was sitting at home one day, and decided I was going to do this with joy, enjoy my life, do it with a smile on my face, and use it for good to help the patients I was around get through cancer. I prayed that God would walk with me through. I couldn’t have done it without him.”  

Lora couldn’t find much funding support for those living with colorectal cancer. She came across one grant but found out her family made too much to receive the assistance. Instead, to pay for treatment, she had to use her savings.   

“What if somebody didn’t have savings?” Lora says, adding that she knows from other patient stories that many have lost their home and must live in their car or with family because they’re too sick to work and couldn’t pay their bills. “It’s really hard because you have to have the treatment. I would have died.”   

Lora charges everyone to speak about colorectal cancer. For themselves. For their families and for those who are going through treatment.  

“What if we talked about colorectal cancer more?” she asks.   

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