Colon Cancer Survivor Stays Positive

"The experience has changed me. It makes me look at life differently. Little things that used to make me mad don't bother me anymore. I appreciate life now."

Denise Mair
close up portrait of Denise Mair

Denise Mair, 50, has stage IV colon cancer, but she is not letting it get her down. “It’s just a diagnosis,” says Mair. “I don’t consider myself to be sick.”

Her cancer journey began with abdominal pains and nausea in the summer of 2012. She had been diagnosed with a cyst on her ovary, and assumed that was the cause of her symptoms. In October, she was treated with surgery. A week later, her doctor told her that biopsies taken during the surgery tested positive for ovarian cancer.

“I never once shed a tear,” says Mair. “I knew God would take care of me. He brought me through everything else, and I knew he would bring me through this too.”

Mair’s doctor sent her to another surgeon for more surgery. He would take additional biopsies to find out whether all the cancer had been removed, and whether it had spread. What he found out was that Mair’s cancer had actually originated in her colon. Further tests showed it had spread to her liver and lymph nodes.

Now that the doctors knew what they were dealing with, they prescribed a treatment of chemotherapy and more surgery. Mair began rallying her support team. She moved in with her sister and enlisted a couple of good friends to help take her to chemo appointments in Baltimore, about a 2 ½ hour drive. She looked up information about her cancer type on the American Cancer Society website, which helped her understand more about her treatment. Through it all, she continued to work, continued to stay positive, and continued to rely on her faith.

Mair said side effects during her first few months of chemo did not interfere with her determination to fight the cancer. Nerve damage caused extreme sensitivity to cold and caused cramping in her legs that made walking difficult. But she says she was determined to keep fighting and take control over the cancer.

These days, Mair continues to have chemo treatments, but says she feels OK. A follow-up test found some cancer in her pelvic area, and she may need radiation. But she continues to believe that through her faith in God, her positive attitude, and her medical care, she’s going to triumph over cancer in the end.

“The experience has changed me,” said Mair. “It makes me look at life differently. Little things that used to make me mad don’t bother me anymore. I appreciate life now.”

To encourage others facing a cancer diagnosis, Mair has started her own support group for patients and caregivers. So far, 18 people have signed up for her first meeting at a local library. She hopes to teach the group some of the lessons she’s learned from her ordeal.

“Surround yourself with a good support system if you can,” says Mair. “Don’t give up – keep living life.”

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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