A native of upstate New York, Michele (Coston) Longabaugh moved to Wichita, Kansas, to work as a registered nurse as a young woman. After her relocation to the midwest she met and married Jerry Longabaugh. She is the mother to three beautiful children, now grown.
She was employed as a hospital nurse for more than fifteen years before becoming involved with medical device sales in cardiac rhythm management.
Now, as a small business owner, she partners with one of her best friends and continues to work in medical device sales as an independent sales representative.
Michele continues to reside in Wichita and considers herself an ordinary woman caught in extraordinary circumstances.
I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Anal Cancer in February 2010. I asked my OB-Gyn doctor to check what I thought was a hemorrhoid flare up at my routine pap smear visit, and discovered it was actually two tumors. My constant sciatica was found to be caused by a golf ball sized tumor growing out of my sacral bone.
Not only was I diagnosed with a rare form of cancer; I had a rare form of metastasis located in my bone. After surgery to remove the sacral tumor I received simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation; two rounds of chemo lasting 96 hours each and seven weeks of radiation that resulted in my hospitalization for the last two weeks of treatment for pain control.
I baffled them all when I went into remission last year; I have just passed my one-year anniversary. The thing about anal cancer is that it is a cancer “below the belt”. Not only is it rare, there is definitely an unwarranted shame attached to it. I overcame the shame and humiliation and decided to fight the stigma. I did not have one risk factor when I was diagnosed. I thought I had a hemorrhoid and sciatic pain. I was wrong. My “well woman” doctor appointment saved my life!
These days, I try not to take any medications unless absolutely necessary. I eat to try to keep weight on and am limited by the damage radiation has inflicted on my digestive system. I exercise and try to increase my strength.
My current goal is to raise awareness for not only anal cancer but all cancers that exist “below the belt”. People need to be educated. Doctors need to be screening patients. I am talking and I can’t shut up…I won’t shut up! My hope is that no one ever suffers from anal cancer and if they do they get early diagnosis and treatment.
I would have liked to have a support group…a real one for folks like me. If I had been diagnosed with breast cancer resources would have been crawling out of the woodwork for me. There seems to be a stigma associated with these “below the belt” cancers and resources for emotional support are scarce.
I started a blog that logs my entire story from diagnosis to today. My hope is to shatter the stigma and fight the loneliness that accompanies this devastating type of cancer. You can visit my blog titled I have Butt What. My story was recently published into a book, proceeds from each book will go to cancer research ($1/book). Check it out!
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