Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How Did I Get to Stage 4 Rectal Cancer without Knowing I Had Cancer Sooner? ....A Warning About Hemorrhoids

My name is Stacy Kagawa. I am 41 years old and about 6 weeks ago, I was told for the first time that I have rectal cancer. What's more, I soon learned that my tumor had been there for years, and it was at stage 4, meaning that it had spread, and I now have two tumors. The second is in my liver.

Tomorrow I begin my chemo therapy and radiation treatments. I have set up this blog so that I can share my story with my friends around the nation, and keep them updated on my progress. But I also want to share my story with others, as they might learn from it. I was misdiagnosed, having been told for years that I have internal and external hemorrhoids. As it turns out, it seems that my internal hemorrhoid was actually a cancerous tumor. Here I willingly share the gory details of my doctor visits. Hopefully, I save someone from the misdiagnosis that I experienced. Certainly, if my cancer were caught sooner, I probably would not have it in my liver today.

I gave birth 4 1/2 years ago. A common side effect of giving birth is hemorrhoids. I had hemorrhoid like symptoms (emphasis on the word symptoms) after giving birth, and did my best to treat them. About 5 months after child birth, the pain was unbearable, so my primary care physician referred me to general surgery to have a look. It only took a moment for the general surgeon to take off his gloves and say, "We're done here." He could not follow through with the examination as I had developed a fissure. A fissure is a nasty repercussion of anal pain. It is a tear in the anus. (Here come the gory details). When pain occurs in the anal cavity during a bowel movement, the sphincter muscle can react by tensing up. The rectum responds to excavate the bowel movement. In essence, the two muscles go to war. And the rectum always wins in the end. Over time, a fissure is inevitable if the pain is not put under control. Once a fissure occurs, a doctor generally will not perform any anal scope, as they do not want to tear the anus any further. My fissure was moderate in size, and took approximately 6 months to fully heal, as they do not heal readily. Botox injections were used to relax the sphincter muscle. Multiple baths were taken daily. And passing a bowel movement felt like passing glass. It was no joy ride.

I was 37, almost 38 years old at the time. Because of my age, the doctors seemingly never considered that I might have a rectal tumor, which in hindsight is probably what was causing all that pain. And the external hemorrhoids that I did have, along with my age, served as a smoke screen to the fact. The doctors told me that my external hemorrhoids were the source of my pain, and that internal hemorrhoids generally do not cause pain. Having just given birth, this all seemed reasonable to me. After several follow-up visits, I eventually was told that the fissure was healed. I was told to be diligent about treating my hemorrhoids, given instructions on how to do so, and was discharged from care. As my external hemorrhoids and fissure were deemed the source of pain, the doctor never scoped me internally. If I could go back in time, I would make sure that the doctor looked at the internal hemorrhoid(s) too. Here comes the moral of this story, if you are diagnosed with internal hemorrhoids, insist that your doctor perform an internal scope.

Four years and five doctors later, a doctor finally had enough precaution to perform an internal scope. He didn't have to even use a device. He simply touched it and immediately knew it was a tumor. Knowing that I was under the impression that he was inspecting a hemorrhoid, the doctor put it as tactfully as he could. "If you were 10 years older," he said, "I would tell you that you probably might have cancer. We need to schedule a biopsy." I was too stunned to reply. I thought, "Did he just tell me that I have cancer?" The biopsy confirmed it. Several tests later, I underwent a second biopsy, this time of my liver. And tomorrow, I start the fight.

For those of you who know me, let me fill you in on the surgery details, as I know some have questions about that. One week ago, I was told that I had to choose a new surgical oncologist. Since the cancer had spread to my liver, my hospital has no surgeon qualified to handle my case. I was told that I could go anywhere. I decided to go with the team of doctors at UNC. Mostly because they are certainly qualified and furthermore, they have an established a relationship with my current hospital. Thus, the protocol and communication is already set-up. I feel that time is of the essence for me at this point. If I had decided to choose Dana Farber in Boston, which I had strongly considered so that I could be nearer to my family and old friends, then I might loose precious time on treatment. Time is something I just can not afford. For those of you who are die-hard Dana Farber advocates and feel that I should go nowhere else, I'll provide a link for UNC, and leave you with this. John Edwards' wife is being treated at UNC. It is one of the best places to go.

So please keep me and my family in your prayers. Studies have proved that cancer patients with a strong faith have better odds at winning their battle. So pray for my faith as well, as I haven't been as close to God as I once was in the past. These events should correct that. Also know that I am determined to win this battle.

Check back to my blog from time to time. I hope to include some interesting links, as well as update my progress.

Warm Regards,



  1. You go girl! Give yourself the fight of your life! And thanks for all the not-really-that-gory details- I'm sure you will save a life my dear! Chrisie :-)

  2. I remember your struggles from the beginning, and you have always been a fighter!!! You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers.

  3. You are an unabashedly strong and courageous woman! You are in our hearts, we love you, and are praying for you!!!

  4. Stacy - you know that you have lots of supports, prayers, well wishes, and positive thougths coming to you from our little state Massachusetts ! God is with you and your family - stay strong and beleive !! thinking of you !

  5. god bless you stacy the caplins are all praying for you. you are an amazing young woman who has overcome many things and you will overcome this one, you are in our thoughts and prayers joan and family

  6. Stacy, you know that Roger & I will pray for you & I will help in any way I possibly can. You certainly are a fighter & you can & I believe WILL beat this. You happen to have one of the types of cancer that is MOST responsive to chemo & RT, this is very good news. It can cause the tumors to "melt" away, as one of the docs I know is fond of saying--you can visulaize just that. Yes; prayer, faith, positive visualizations and a strong support team are all things which make miracles of survival happen. I trust we have a miracle-maker on our hands. And I trust thst you are with a great team--UNC have a great rep. Go Stacy GO! Take good music, good book & a fave pillow or something with you to your appts and please DO bother your doctors, that's why they're there. The squeaky gate gets the grease...squeak, piggy, squeak! You're in for a looong wait and will need a good helping of patient endurance to help you along the way. We're with you.
    Big hugs
    Sal xxxxxx

  7. Our prayers are with you and TK and Takashi, we love ya'll and will be praying you through this. I wish we could be there to help with TK and to cook for you and hug you but know that you will be lifted up in KS. Thank you for your openess and courage. Love, the Nordan clan

  8. Yes, your battle has been in our prayers and we'll continue to pray and ask God to increase your Faith! Please reach out to us anytime and let us know what else we can do to help.

    Psalm 126 I read this past week!

  9. My dear friend, what a story. You have been through so much in your young life! I know that God will sustain you in this as he has so many times before. We will be praying, praying, praying for your battle and sending many prayers and kisses to Takashi and TK. We love you. (And you have to get well because my Scrabble board awaits) In case you haven't figured it out, this is Shari, not Carlito, but we are one flesh, after all...

  10. Hi my Stacy,

    My heart and my prayers are with you.

    2 Samuel 22:2
    He said, "The Lord is my rock, my fortress & my deliverer."

    Psalm 141:8
    My eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign Lord, in you I take refuge.

    Isaiah 54:10
    "Though the mountains be shaken & the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the Lord, who has compassion on you."

    You've done a great job setting up this BLOG.

    I Love you!

  11. WOW! Thank you for being soooo brave. Thank you for sharing your story. I believe it will save many lives.

    I will continue to keep you in prayer. My prayer for you is that the LORD will heal you completely and that you will be deemed a medical miracle and that many will come to christ as a result of your life testament.

    Much love and lots of hugs!


  12. Stacy I will be asking for prayer on your behalf from all those I know. Hope that is ok with you. If not let me know.

    luv neyra

  13. Stacy,
    All of us at East Triangle are the prayer warriors for you, Takashi and TK. Everyone in the marriage group cannot wait for you to come to Chapel Hill so we can love on you and be there for you and your family. Be strong with our love and prayers. All things are accomplished with God!
    We love you and will be in touch.
    Love, Yolonda

  14. Stace, you'll be in my prayer. Have faith, stay strong, and be brave!

  15. Stacy,
    I am reading this with tears. You are so strong and brave to deal with this. I am so grateful that you are sharing this all with such humility and honesty with your friends and family. This blog is going to help so many people make sure they get the right dianosis. I am proud of you girl. I will be praying for your healing.

  16. Stacy we are all so lucky to have known you! God puts certain people in your life to be a guiding light. You are one of those people that can really change someone's path. This world lost a great woman that was truly taken way too soon! We will all miss you but we all know where we will see you again. A person that was as beautiful from the inside as she was on the outside. Grace and mercy to your husband and your beautiful son.
    Thanks you for crossing my path...

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