Losing a Parent to Colorectal Cancer
Carol Keohane is vigilant about being screened for colorectal cancer, and not just because she works for a company that makes the scopes used for colonoscopies.
“I lost my mom to colon cancer almost 19 years ago,” said Carol, who is a Senior Manager for Training at Olympus America Inc. “She was diagnosed at 63 with Stage IV colorectal cancer that had spread to her liver.”
At the time of her mom’s diagnosis, Carol worked for a Boston-area medical imaging company and was well connected within a health care sector that offers some of the best care available. Carol advocated for her mom, finding her a top oncologist who was able to secure Pauline’s participation in a clinical trial for an implanted device that delivered chemotherapy directly to her liver. This treatment helped keep the cancer in check and allowed Pauline to have a good quality of life for three years following her diagnosis. After battling the disease for almost five years, the 67-year-old fine art painter died in 2002.
With her mom’s death, Carol and her siblings are considered high risk and go for regular colonoscopies, as they are advised to do. Because colorectal cancer is a disease that can be prevented if found early, Carol commits herself to supporting organizations that make more people aware of the importance of screening. Her hope is to try to ensure others do not lose their lives prematurely.
“We grew close to my mom’s doctor, who was great, and after she died, my dad gave him one of my mom’s watercolor paintings, which still hangs in the doctor’s office,” Carol added.
In memory of her mother, Carol participated in the virtual 2020 edition of the Colorectal Cancer Coalition’s Get Your Rear in Gear, Boston, taking advantage of new flexibility in the way the race was organized. “I usually don't participate in this event because traditionally it’s a running event, and I’m not a runner,” said Carol. But this year, she was able to raise money for colorectal cancer awareness through her local, outdoor exercise class, held in a parking lot.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of screening. It’s a horrible disease, and no one should have to die from it,” Carol added. “My siblings and I are very diligent about having our check-ups. I was having to get a colonoscopy every three years, but now I go only every 5 years as my gastroenterologist has not found any polyps. But one of my brothers has had polyps removed, and he is still being screened every three years.”