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Anita Mitchell- Stage IV Colon Cancer Survivor Story

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Mitchell had just turned 41 when she was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer in February 2005. The cancer in her colon had already metastasized — 

Anita Mitchell is a busy mother to three children. Like most parents during the holidays, she had little time to think about herself. And like most moms, it took an extraordinary event to get her to pay attention to symptoms that had been bothering her for quite a while.

“Late in 2004, I wasn’t feeling great,” Mitchell said. “I’d had gastrointestinal (GI) pain and diarrhea nearly every morning and an occasional bloody stool.” Mitchell attributed her GI trouble to drinking coffee, even though she drank it decaffeinated. Her doctor told her it was most likely hemorrhoids.


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Two weeks later, in November, she went in for her annual physical, “and my doctor didn’t remember that I’d been there two weeks before,” Mitchell says. “She wasn’t reading her notes, but I figured that just meant she wasn’t worried about my symptoms, so I didn’t worry either.” Thanksgiving brought continued discomfort for Mitchell.

In December she wasn’t feeling good at all but pushed through the hustle and bustle that came with the busy holiday season. She was brought to a halt in January by a particularly “bad episode,” she calls it, and saw a lot of blood in the toilet.

Image result for image of colon cancer

“I looked in my medical dictionary and saw that I could have diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease or colon cancer,” Mitchell says, “so I called my mom to confirm what type of cancer my father had died of when I was 16 and he was 45. She said it was colon cancer.

Mitchell had just turned 41 when she was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer in February 2005. The cancer in her colon had already metastasized — that is, spread to other parts of her body — and she had seven tumors on her liver that were too large and diffuse to remove surgically.

In mid-February, Dr. Mika Sinanan, professor of surgery at UW Medical Center, removed a foot and a half of Mitchell’s colon, 14 lymph nodes — six of which had cancer — and one of Mitchell’s ovaries.

A month later, Mitchell saw her medical oncologist, Dr. Sam Whiting, at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. They discussed how best to approach Mitchell’s metastatic cancer, focusing on the option for sequencing several therapies to possibly cure her typically incurable cancer.

Her treatment began in late March, with chemotherapy every other week to attack her liver tumors and any other cancer cells that could have been in her body. “My cancer responded very well to the chemotherapy,” Mitchell says. “My tumors were shrinking, and in August I was able to have a liver resection.”

Dr. Raymond Yeung, professor of surgery at UW Medical Center, performed this procedure. He surgically removed three of the tumors and treated the others with radio-frequency ablation, a technique using a special type of electrical energy to heat and kill tumor tissue.

It was a long 10 days before Mitchell could go home, and she later returned to UW Medical Center because she was having difficulty recovering from surgery and keeping food down.

By late September, she was able to restart her chemotherapy treatments, and she began receiving another powerful drug combination designed to treat and eliminate any residual cancer that was left behind. Mitchell received two months of this aggressive treatment before side effects and fatigue became limiting to her quality of life. “At this point, there was no cancer detectable in Anita by even the most sophisticated tests,” Whiting says. Whiting cut back on treatment to a single drug with minimal side effects, hoping to prevent the regrowth of any residual cancer cells.

The last treatment continued for a little more than a year before being halted. “Anita is now off of all cancer-directed therapy,” Whiting says, “and is being followed carefully for cancer recurrence.

She remains free of detectable disease.” Because of her family history, Mitchell says she now knows she should have been screened when she was in her early 30s. Since her colon-cancer diagnosis, Mitchell has become an advocate for early detection — from knowing your family history to promoting early screenings for those at risk.

She has joined support groups and is a member of the colon-cancer task force for the Washington Comprehensive Cancer Control Partnership Program. She is also a member of the Colon Cancer Alliance; she is part of its Buddy Program which helps people diagnosed with colon cancer.

In 2007 Mitchell’s photo was featured alongside another colon-cancer survivor in a calendar used to raise money for colon-cancer awareness. Mitchell and Whiting were also featured in a program on HealthTalk.com about her diagnosis and the treatment that brought her cancer into remission. “The doctors are outstanding at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and UW Medical Center,” Mitchell says. “When I was diagnosed, several of my friends, who are nurses, told me there was only one place for me to go, and that was SCCA.”

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12 comments
Grape Seed Extract-Reduce Mucositis & Enhance Colon Cancer Chemo - PeopleBeatingCancer says 3 years ago

[…] Anita Mitchell- Stage IV Colon Cancer Survivor Story […]

Reply
    Fatma says 3 years ago

    Hi Anita, whatta an inspirational story you have. Can I side bar with you as I would like to ask you a very private, important and urgent question. I am stage IV Colonic / Peritoneal.

    Reply
      David Emerson says 3 years ago

      Hi Fatma-

      This is David Emerson. I am the person who posted Anita Mitchell’s story. Anita may or may not reply to you as it has been a long time since I posted her story on PBC. I hope that she “side bars” with you but I just wanted to make you aware that she might not.

      Is there any question I can answer?

      David Emerson

      Reply
High-Carb Diet Linked to Colon Cancer Recurrence - PeopleBeatingCancer says 4 years ago

[…] Anita Mitchell- Stage IV Colon Cancer Survivor Story […]

Reply
Tanya says 4 years ago

Hi Anita
Your story is very inspirational. What new drug did you take that you mentioned was instrumental in saving you. Also what type of cancer did you have. Do you know the name of the colon cancer.

Reply
Tanya says 4 years ago

Hi Anita
Your story is very inspirational. What new drug did you take that you mentioned was instrumental in saving you.

Reply
    Anita Mitchell Isler says 4 years ago

    Avastin

    Reply
Frances King Atephen says 4 years ago

Please help me I have insurance

Reply
    David Emerson says 4 years ago

    Hi Frances-

    What sort of help are you looking for? What type of cancer do you have?

    David Emerson

    Reply
Owen says 4 years ago

So tumors were surgically removed or radio frequency ablation. But the Metasasis ? How’d they get all.thoze cells? They’re saying the chemo killed all of them ?

Reply
    Anita Mitchell Isler says 4 years ago

    They removed surgically three tumors in a wedge resection. The other 5 tumors were in places they could not surgically remove so they did the radio frequency ablation, which was successful. The tumors that were ablated had to be a certain size to in order for it to be effective. The chemo worked well for me and shrunk the liver spots to a treatable size.

    Reply
      David Emerson says 4 years ago

      Hi Anita,

      Thanks for this reply.

      David

      Reply
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