Kelli Moore was at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour in June 2017 when she learned she had Stage 4 colon cancer.
On Friday, more than two and a half years later, she was back at the hospital, but for a different reason.
She was among the community members joining hospital staff members for the inaugural Sparks of Strength ceremony.
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March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and Schneck invited the community to reflect upon and remember loved ones who have battled that type of cancer.
Stacey Allman, director of perioperative service, and Tyler Wessel, ambulatory services manager, spoke briefly before attendees turned on the blue tea light they received in a white paper bag. Blue represents colorectal cancer awareness, and those attending wore that color for March 6 being Dress in Blue Day.
A moment of silence preceded a prayer by the Rev. Jeremy Yeadon of St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brownstown.
Before everyone parted ways, Wessel encouraged them to pass the blue tea light on to somebody they know who needs to get a colonoscopy.
Moore said she was glad she took some time on her lunch to stop by the hospital for the ceremony.
“It’s overwhelming,” she said. “It’s good to know that people support it because you always see people talking about breast cancer and supporting it with the pink, but there are other cancers besides that that people need to be aware of. … It was nice to see all of the blue. This is a neat event.”
Allman said with the ceremony being new, she and Wessel had no clue so many people would attend.
That was a good thing, though, because they now know the importance of getting a colonoscopy to check for polyps or signs of cancer.
“Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of death, but 90% can be cured with a screening colonoscopy,” Allman said. “There’s usually about 150,000 per year people that get diagnosed with colon cancer, so if we can get people screened, we can maybe cure their cancer.”
With regular screenings, colorectal cancer can be preventable, according to the American Cancer Society.
Several factors may place a person at a higher risk for colorectal cancer, including age, personal history of polyps or cancer, inflammatory bowel disorders, Type 2 diabetes, family history, genetics and lifestyle choices, such as low physical activity, obesity, smoking, moderate to heavy alcohol use, very low intake of fruits and vegetables and diets high in red and processed meats.
It’s recommended that people 50 and older receive a colonscopy. If they have a family member who has had colon cancer, testing is even more important and may need to be started at an earlier age, the ACS says.
“We have lots of doctors that can do screening colonoscopies,” Wessel said. “It’s hard to talk people into taking the plunge and doing it.”
A colonscopy involves using a narrow, lighted tube to look at the inside of the rectum and entire colon. The doctor will look for cancer or polyps that could turn into cancer. If polyps or growths are found, the doctor can remove them or take a piece to test them for cancer.
Most people who have polyps removed never get colon cancer, the ACS says. If cancer is found, though, a person has a good chance of beating it with treatment if it’s found early when it’s small and has not spread, and testing can help find it early.
Nine out of 10 people whose colon cancer is discovered early will be alive five years later, and many will live a normal life span, according to Schneck.
Moore said she was about a half-hour from getting off from work when she had pain shoot across her stomach and wasn’t feeling well. She went home and ate something but began to have hot and cold flashes.
She wound up going to Schneck to get checked out. A scan revealed her colon had split and had fluid all the way around it.
Moore spent some time in a regular hospital room until being moved that evening to the intensive care unit.
The morning of June 19, 2017, she was set to have exploratory surgery, and that’s when doctors realized she had colon cancer. The surgery took nearly four hours.
“They removed three-fourths of my colon, 17 lymph nodes and a piece of my liver,” Moore said.
The news of her cancer diagnosis came six years after going through the death of her husband, who had a drug addiction and was in and out of rehab.
Moore was told Stage 4 colon cancer is not a death sentence if a person goes through treatments, so in August 2017, she began going to the Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis for chemotherapy. She also took chemotherapy pills twice a day for 14 days and then had a week off from taking any medication.
She hasn’t had any treatments since the spring of 2019, and she had three spots that were dead cancer cells removed off her liver in June.
“I had a CT scan in December, and they said that they are going to let my body get some more rest, and I have another scan April 7,” Moore said. “We’ll find the prognosis on it April 14 and then make a game plan from there.”
Through her battle with colon cancer, Moore has maintained a positive attitude and stayed active by walking 5Ks on a regular basis.
“I’m still doing my 5Ks, trying to do one a month to keep myself healthy, keep myself going,” she said. “Every morning, I just get up and I thank God that I’m another day alive and another day to enjoy my kids, my job and still keep wondering why God chose me to keep going.”
She took off a year from working at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School in Seymour and returned at the start of the 2018-19 school year to be a Title I teacher assistant. She’s now the school librarian.
“I have a huge support staff,” Moore said. “My teachers at the school are always keeping me motivated. My students keep me motivated, too.”
Attending the Sparks of Strength ceremony, Moore realized she has even more support.
“I wanted to come and see other people that were going through cancer and maybe get some strength from them that have had it for more years than I have,” she said. “I came to get some more support because you never know who has it and who you can lean on to get support from.”
The ACS says there are more than 1 million colorectal cancer survivors in the United States.
Those people and those who have lost the battle were in people’s thoughts during the moment of silence and prayer Friday.
“Dear heavenly father, we come to you this day, Lord, and we give you thanks and praise for the gift of life,” Yeadon said. “Lord, as we live our lives, we know that because of the result of sin in this world, things will happen, cancer will develop and other horrible diseases are in this world.
“But Lord, you being the great physician, you’ve allowed us cures for these things, and you’ve allowed doctors and other staff and nurses to be able to do work and testing that will save lives,” he said. “Lord, we ask that people that come to the doctor have these tests done and be able to be spared their life so they do the work that you have intended for them here on Earth for the glory of your name. We pray all this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
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To schedule a colonoscopy, contact your primary care provider.
If you don’t have one, call the Schneck Endoscopy Center at 812-522-0464 for a list of providers.
Your doctor decides how often you need this test, usually once every 10 years, depending on your estimated risk for colon cancer. It’s important to talk to your doctor to understand your risk for colon cancer, the guidelines you should follow for testing and whether you need to start having the tests at age 50 or earlier.