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After Judy Regalado learned a close friend had died of colorectal cancer in her mid-30s, and after experiencing similar symptoms herself, she knew she had to get checked.
But because the San Antonio area resident didn’t have a family history or other risk factors, doctors asked her to wait until she turned 50 for a colonoscopy. They told her the symptoms could just be hemorrhoids, and referred her to a gynecologist instead.
Judy still felt her symptoms could be something more serious.
“I made an appointment with my primary care doctor and insisted on a colonoscopy, and I’m glad I did because I was diagnosed with stage III rectal cancer,” Judy said.
“If I had not requested to have a colonoscopy, I would have been a statistic.”
The colonoscopy caught Judy’s cancer just in time.
She underwent chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, a surgery to remove it, as well as follow-up radiation.
She was in her second year of remission, when her husband, Joe Regalado, started feeling very fatigued and experiencing minor bleeding.
“I thought it was my heart because heart disease runs in my family – both on my mom and dad’s side,” Joe said. “I knew I should probably get checked for colon cancer, too, but I wanted Judy to get well before I went in.”
Judy insisted that her husband go in for a colonoscopy.
“I went in for a colonoscopy and was told I had colon cancer and needed surgery immediately. They had to remove my whole large intestine – 39 inches!” Joe said.
Joe was diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer after his first screening colonoscopy at the age of 57.
Joe works in the Texas Department of Transportation, which gives their employees a medical physical every two years, but the physical only includes checking blood pressure and basic blood work. It does not include any kind of screening tests.
Judy and Joe actively promote colorectal cancer screening among family and friends.
Joe has been featured on KENS5-TV “Real Men Wear Gowns” segment to share his experience and encourage men to go to the doctor and get checked. Judy is involved in her church group and shares her story to encourage everyone to not delay screening.
“It was a shame that at first they didn’t want to do the colonoscopy for me because they said I had to wait till I was 50,” Judy said. “I wouldn’t have made it to 50.”
Editor’s Note: For Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in March, this is the story of a Latino survivor from the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) and the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at UT Health San Antonio, as part of the National Cancer Institute’s “Screen to Save” Colorectal Cancer Outreach & Screening Initiative.