May of 2016 was going to be a month of memories for Kandice Thomason. She was planning a May wedding, after getting engaged in March. She and Nathan had met when they worked together locally at Texas Health Huguley Hospital, before Nathan moved to Killeen. They had been living in different cities and looked forward to being in the same place and starting their new life. All the plans took a different turn on May 2.
In January, Kandice had started noticing some changes to her health. She began a few months of medical visits, tests, and a misdiagnosis. The pain and problems continued though, and she was scheduled for a colonoscopy. On May 2 Kandice had the test and it was discovered that she had stage 3 colon rectal cancer. Suddenly, she went from being a twenty-eight-year-old bride to being to a cancer patient. Her decisions went from wedding plans and preparing for her marriage, to treatment plans and making fast decisions about the immediate future. Her physician wanted to move quickly.
Within the month Kandice had a port put in and had her first chemotherapy treatment. A week later, she and Nathan had their May wedding, as planned. Instead of a honeymoon, she and Nathan were back at Texas Health Huguley Hospital at The Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders where she got her second chemo treatment two days after the wedding. The next year brought eight rounds of chemo at Huguley, radiation for six weeks at MD Anderson in Houston, a surgery to place a temporary ileostomy, removal of the tumor and another surgery to reverse the ileostomy. Nathan and Kandice had to spend the first year of marriage apart.
The treatments were successful, and tests on fifty-two lymph nodes showed she was free from cancer. She was finally able to make the move to Killeen to be with Nathan. She has continued to have clear scans and colonoscopy. She celebrates each day with gratitude. Kandice appreciates every day she is given and no longer gets bogged down by little things. She has learned the difficult task of putting her health and well-being first, which was a challenge for her. She started running with Nathan and runs up to 18 miles a week. She had never enjoyed running before, but now she is planning to run her first half marathon in 2018.
Kandice found her greatest strength through her faith. She also had a strong support system around her with family and friends, which she said was vital. She learned that she could face the impossible with God and her family. Her support extended past even family and friends. She found a community of fellow cancer fighters through social media. There she could get suggestions, advice and encouragement from people who understood her reality. She learned how strong the mind is when having to push herself beyond anything she imagined. The mind is an incredible thing, and determination made all the difference.
Kandice actively shares her experience with the hope of educating others. She encourages people to not ignore signs their body is giving them that something may be wrong. Colonoscopies are not routine for twenty-eight-year olds. The only reason she had one was because she did not settle for a misdiagnosis and pursued answers. She advocates that patients should actively participate in the decisions being made about their health and treatment, and not give up when dissatisfied with lack of answers. Everything happened very quickly for her at the beginning and looking back she wishes she had more of a voice in the decisions that were made.
Going through a life altering diagnosis and treatments has had a lasting impact on Kandice. Her joyful presence is an encouragement to people she interacts with, and her faith has been inspiring. How can you help someone like her? She shared a unique way the community can join in the fight against colorectal cancer. All you have to do is take a selfie flexing your “strong arm” and post it on a social media site with the hashtag #strongarmselfie. With every post, retweet or share of a #strongarmselfie, $1.00 is sent to Fight CRC!