Taking charge of one’s own health

By The Health News Team | March 11, 2021
Dr. Lee Remington-Boone shares her personal experience with colorectal cancer.

It was early 2019 when Dr. Lee Remington-Boone, a family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, discovered blood in her stool and immediately took note.

“Medical school taught us that the two most common reasons for painless rectal bleeding are internal hemorrhoids and diverticulosis,” she says.

Dr. Remington-Boone knew childbirth was a common reason for women to develop internal hemorrhoids. However, she had given birth to her youngest child 16 years earlier. Why would these symptoms surface now, she wondered? At age 50, and with no family history of colorectal cancer, her risk profile was low, yet a persistent, little voice inside her head kept telling her to get it checked out.

She made an appointment with her colleague, Dr. Julie Roth, a family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy. Dr. Roth promptly ordered a colonoscopy, a first for Dr. Remington-Boone.

“While I tried my best not to worry, I think deep down I knew this was not good,” recalls Dr. Remington-Boone. “I remember a random crazy thought popping into my head a few days just prior to the colonoscopy: this could be my last weekend without cancer.”

The colonoscopy was performed in February 2019 by Dr. Alissa Speziale, gastroenterologist with Sharp Rees-Stealy. After the procedure, Dr. Remington-Boone’s worst fears were realized.

“Dr. Speziale came over to me, held my hand and delivered the news to me and my husband that I had a nasty looking lesion, and that cancer markers were being drawn,” says Dr. Remington-Boone. “My heart sunk as the location was not optimal in terms of surgery.”

A CT scan was scheduled to see if the cancer had spread. Fortunately, it showed no spread and Dr. Remington-Boone was able to breathe a sigh of relief. Then, she had an MRI to look for local invasion and help with surgical planning.

“Thankfully, the tumor appeared to be superficial, so I was able to undergo robotic, minimally invasive surgery,” says Dr. Remington-Boone. “Pathology results came back confirming I had stage 1 rectal carcinoma, meaning no chemotherapy, no radiation and no colostomy.”

Dr. Remington-Boone had extensive genetic testing performed and was found to have no known genetic markers for colon cancer. It was just a random case, as many are.

During the entire ordeal, Dr. Remington-Boone had to put her lab coat aside and place herself in the unfamiliar role of patient.

“I resisted the urge to dive into the data and read all the guidelines,” says Dr. Remington-Boone. “I needed to be told the statistics and the options and given guidance as to the best plan of action, rather than act as my own consultant.”

To this day, she marvels at the work of her care team, including Drs. Roth and Speziale, oncologist Dr. Andrew Hampshire, and surgeon Dr. Jared Wong, formerly with Sharp Rees-Stealy.

“They treated me like a patient and spoke to us in such a way that I didn’t have to translate for my husband later. I knew I was in great hands, having worked with these folks for years.”

As a patient, she felt the same emotions — fear, anxiety, sorrow — that anyone with a cancer diagnosis would experience. She was suddenly faced with her own mortality.

“Naturally, we tend to gravitate first to the worst possible scenario in our minds.”

Through this episode, Dr. Remington-Boone developed a profound appreciation and respect for the anguish and fear that a cancer diagnosis brings to her patients, especially early on when the prognosis and the plan are not yet clear as information is still being gathered.

“I am open about my experience and can speak from the heart with an understanding of their fears, which don’t necessarily end with cancer treatment,” she says. “The diagnosis is always with you, even if it is in the back of your mind.”

As for guidance for other patients in a similar situation, she says early detection and action is critical.

“There are so many cancers we cannot yet prevent, but colon cancer can be prevented with screening. We can find the pre-cancerous polyps and remove them during the procedure before they have the chance to turn into cancer like mine,” she says. “Colorectal cancer screenings are the opportunity to take an active role in cancer prevention. Do not let that opportunity go to waste.”


Learn more about colorectal cancer at
sharp.com/preventingcoloncancer.


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