'Get your checkups', local woman surprised with colorectal cancer diagnosis

(WMAR) - A Maryland woman says that a colonoscopy potentially saved her life. 

46-year-old Lisette Galloway decided to go to the doctor after she was having frequent headaches and started to feel dizzy. She was diagnosed with anemia, but her doctors didn't know where the condition stemmed from. Though she wasn't due for another four years, she got a colonoscopy after her physician recommended it.

“I was going to cancel the appointment because I was scared," explained Galloway. "I have never had major surgery or anything like that, so my biggest fear was being put to sleep. So I said I was fine and I was going to cancel the appointment, but of course, nobody would let me cancel."

To her dismay, Galloway found out she had colorectal cancer. 

“I was not expecting that at all. In my head I was like ‘You’ve got the wrong patient.’ I burst out crying. It devastated me.”

She continued to say that the moment she heard the words cancer, her whole world was turned upside down. After getting her bearings, she learned she was in the early stages. 

"Hearing that you have a diagnosis of cancer is not an easy thing to accept," explained Dr. David Lisle, her doctor at Medstar Franklin Square Medical Center. "Most of us have been touched by cancer in some way in a family member or friend and have seen the impact that this disease can have over time.  But we have come so far in our treatment of cancer, in particular, colon and rectal cancer, on all fronts."

Galloway said her experience at Medstar Franklin Square Medical Center was part of what got her through her diagnosis and she stressed that they are the best hospital with the best doctors. 

"The entire thing was enjoyable even though I was there for something bad. I can’t say nothing wrong about that hospital at all."

And the feeling was mutual. 

"She was inspirational," explained Dr. Lisle. "She was always positive and upbeat.  She never once complained but instead wanted to know what the next step was and what she could do to help get through the process. Even during her recovery in the hospital, I don't ever remember seeing her without a smile."

Dr. Lisle continued to say that stories like Galloway's are not uncommon. He said that colorectal cancer is often asymptomatic, which is why he says it is so important to get a colonoscopy.

"We recommend screening for everybody starting at the age of 50.  For those individuals with a family history of colon cancer in a first-degree relative (eg/ Mom, Dad, brother, sister) they should begin their screening colonoscopies starting 10 years prior to the age their family member was diagnosed with colon cancer or age 40, whichever is earliest.  Screening for colon cancer is vital for preventative medicine and is one of the few modalities that not only screens for cancer but is also therapeutic."

Overall, Galloway says she feels lucky that her cancer was caught at such an early stage, and says she realizes just how important going to the doctor really is. 

“I thank God for the doctor that I have,” she said. “I would definitely suggest that people get their physical checkups because I am one that never goes to the doctor unless something is wrong, so I don’t do regular exams. Had I waited and just left it at 'Oh I got a headache I’m not going to go,' it would have been five years until my colonoscopy and that cancer could have spread. It could have been worse than what it was."

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