Dr. Thomson was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2003 and shares her personal experience coping with this disease.
My name is Cynthia Thomson and I am a registered dietitian with a doctoral degree in nutritional sciences, and I currently work at the University of Arizona at the Department of Nutritional Scientists and at the Arizona Cancer Center. I have been doing cancer research for about 15 years now, mostly in a survivor mode, and about six years ago now, I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and early stage. And I remember at the time going, “I think you got the wrong, the wrong exam. This was not the match.” But I remember in my mind also going, “This is a gastroenterologist who really knows what he is doing. He has done thousands of colonoscopies. He knows what he is looking at and we don’t necessarily need to wait for the pathology in terms of knowing that we’ve got a situation we need to deal with.”
And I remember interestingly that there was a part of me–two things that really resonate with me six years later. One is that I thought, “You know, compared to everybody else in my family, I am so health conscious. How come I got a cancer diagnosis? What’s fortuitous about this?” And my siblings would all tell you that, you know? “She exercises, she eats so healthy, she never smoked–very health conscious, and yet ended up in this situation.”
And there was a part of me at first who really wanted to rebel against doing anything healthy, like healthy be damned, because I was like, you know, “I have always done this, and why did I get cancer?” But that only lasted about three days because, quite honestly, I can’t eat unhealthy and I can’t stop exercising. It’s just part of who I am and so I kind of resolved the fact. And how I came to resolve that was by saying, “You know what, you were diagnosed at a young age, but it could have been ten years younger if you had not eaten healthy and, you know, you bought yourself a decade.” And so in that way, I felt really better about it.
The other thing that I thought was interesting about my response to that disease was that I felt because I had stage 1 disease, I remember thinking, “Well, I didn’t really have real cancer, and I am a person who works on cancer research.” But somehow I resolved that, you know, I had really early stage disease and I felt really guilty about talking about it or worrying about it too much because there are people who have real cancer, who really are dealing with advanced stage disease and I know them well, and I have worked with them and so for me, there was a certain guilt in even worrying about the fact that I had a cancer diagnosis.
So, I just throw that out there because I know that there are women with early stage disease who feel that way, that, you know, “I need to just stuff this because there are people who have real cancer. I know people, they are in my support groups, they are–I met them at the Race for the Cure. I know who they are,” and just realize that they do deserve to address this disease and they do deserve to spend time reflecting, spend time thinking about what lifestyle changes they can make, and getting the support to make those lifestyle changes.
About Dr. Thomson, Ph.D., R.D.:
Dr. Cynthia Thomson, Ph.D., R.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Arizona. She is a registered dietitian with a doctoral degree in nutritional sciences. She has been conducting cancer research since 1994. Dr. Thomson was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2003.