When Hollie Hare, of Winthrop, was experiencing pain under her right rib and made a visit to her primary care provider, she never expected it would start a chain of events that would lead to a colon cancer diagnosis.
“I went to my doctor, and she said, ‘I think we need to check out your gallbladder,’” said Hare. “They did a test and sent me to Gastroenterology to get an upper scope.”
Hare was referred to UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Gastroenterology for an upper GI scope. While getting set up for the procedure, Addie Ketelsen, ARNP, asked Hare if she ever had a colonoscopy.
“I said ‘no,’” recalled Hare. “She asked, ‘how old are you?’ and I said, ‘I’ll be 47 in a few weeks.’”
In May 2021, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) lowered the recommended age patients should start screening for colon cancer from 50 to 45. Ketelsen asked Hare about colon cancer in her family, and due to a family history of polyps on her dad’s side, Hare qualified for a screening colonoscopy.
Gastroenterologist Dr. Pavan Chepyala performed the procedure, which Hare, who had not been experiencing any colon cancer symptoms, expected to be routine. However, when she received a call from Dr. Chepyala a few days later, she got some unexpected news.
“He rattled off all these words like scan, biopsy and oncology. I thought, ‘wait a minute, I originally went to have my gallbladder checked out, and now I have cancer?’” recalled Hare. “I was shocked.”
Support During an Unexpected Colon Cancer Diagnosis
One of the polyps Dr. Chepyala removed came back positive for stage one colon cancer. After a procedure to ensure there was no more cancer in the colon, Hare met with her oncology team which included Barb Lorenz, LBSW, social worker at the Nassif Community Cancer Center. Lorenz gave Hare information about all the support services available to her as a patient at the Community Cancer Center and served as a resource to just listen.
“She gave me her number and said I could call any time,” said Hare. “I can’t say enough good things about her and the team. They’re always there to answer all my questions.”
Hare’s Advice: Don’t Wait to get Screened
Hare, who underwent follow-up testing last November and received the good news she is now cancer-free, reflected on her cancer journey and how grateful she is Ketelsen recommended she get a screening colonoscopy. She also hopes her story will encourage others to get screened.
“The sooner you can do it the better,” said Hare. “I’m glad I did. Six months or a year later and it could have been a very different story.”
If you are 45 or older, talk to your primary care provider about colon cancer screening. For more information about services available to colon cancer patients at the Nassif Community Cancer Center, call (319) 558-4876.