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  • Lorn Turner: Colorectal Cancer Survivor

  • Turner says, "When I first got my diagnosis, I was in shock and it took me a while to get used to the idea that I had cancer. My first thoughts were 'what doctor will help me get through this?' I was very concerned about what this all meant, the unknown about the future. Would I need radiation, chemotherapy? I had a lot of fear about how this was going to play out in my life, how it would affect my work, my family. It was very scary."

    After discussions with Samir A. Shah, MD, her gastroenterologist, Turner went to the Comprehensive Cancer Center at The Miriam Hospital. When she found out that she needed surgery to remove the tumor, she says, "they asked me what surgeon do you want? I had never had a surgeon in my life. Dr. Shah and I talked about it and he recommended Dr. Klipfel. From the moment I met Dr. Klipfel I felt comfortable. Dr. Klipfel saw me before and after my surgery and I felt I was in the best hands I could be in. He was the best surgeon I could ask for. I was afraid of what they were going to find when they did the surgery, but I was confident that he would do what needed to be done."

    Selecting a second generation oncologist

    After her surgery, she was visited by Howard Safran, MD, who said "I hear you want me to be your oncologist." She already knew Safran, who previously treated her father, and he was her first choice. But now that something that was happening to her, she says that she bonded as a patient with Safran: "He helped me get the answers that I needed and helped work me through the process. He was always calming, and comforting and compassionate. I really think the world of him." Turner adds, "I never had the desire to go to Boston for a second opinion. I felt I was getting everything I needed here and had the utmost confidence in Dr. Safran and the nurses, and in everything I was being told here."

    "At the Comprehensive Cancer Center," says Turner, "the nurses were always willing to answer questions; the doctors were always available to answer questions. Everyone was positive and happy when you came in and it just made the experience so much easier to deal with. The staff at the center was definitely set up as a team-from my surgeon to my oncologist to the nurses." Turner continues, "I would definitely recommend the Comprehensive Cancer Center at The Miriam Hospital for anybody who is facing the challenge of cancer. It has everything that you could possibly need. You don't need to go outside these doors for anything."

    Turner says that her oncologist always updated her if he was going to change her therapy in any way. She says that she felt very comfortable knowing that he was on top of everything and addressed all symptoms or problems quickly and effectively. "I felt I was in very good hands at a very difficult time."

    Now that she is out of treatment and a colorectal cancer survivor, Turner says that many positive things came out of her experience. "I met many wonderful people. I realized that I could face something very difficult and come out the other side. It gave me confidence that I could face anything. It gave me a new lease on life, and let me focus more on the important things in life and let the trivial things that we get so wrapped up in go by the wayside. I feel my life is very different in how I look at things. Is it really a big deal that the laundry didn't get done today?" She also says that she feels very fortunate to be a survivor and credits the staff at The Miriam Hospital with helping her work through some of her fear and giving her the courage and the wherewithal to say "I'm going to get through this."

    A good hospital is a great source of comfort

    With her life getting back to normal, Turner would like to volunteer to help others who are going through a similar situation, to provide comfort and encouragement. She would advise others who are facing cancer to find a place like The Miriam Hospital that will be with you step by step. "You can't change what is, but you can definitely have control over who helps you through the process-giving you advice and providing support. When you pick a good hospital that has everything to offer, it's a great source of comfort."

    She further advises, "I think that the most important thing is to line up your doctors, have your check-ups, get your cancer screenings, so when something is not right, you know who to call. I think that saved me with Dr. Shah. If I didn't have Dr. Shah, I would have needed a referral. I just called and they saw me right away. When I got back to work and people told me I looked so good...the first thing out of my mouth was 'I had a great team of doctors. The best!'"

    Turner also credits the staff at the Comprehensive Cancer Center with offering understanding and support through what can be a very lonely experience. Though family and friends provided much love and support, the staff at the center offered the ongoing invaluable support that comes with their significant knowledge of what cancer patients go through.

    Turner also wishes to express gratitude to someone else in her life who didn't need to know any details about the disease and the treatments-he just knew that she needed him. Turner's cocker spaniel Moby kept her company throughout the months of chemotherapy, comforting her and trying to keep her spirits up.

    Turner says that he was her little security blanket. Though appreciative of all the people who offered to keep her company through the home chemotherapy treatments, she felt most comforted by Moby. She says of those days, "I don't want to have to talk if I don't want to talk. I could be quiet, or talk if I wanted... my dog was perfect for that. He was such a sweetie pie."

    Today Turner says she wants to spend a lot of time with Moby and thank him for what he did for her. She looks forward to sailing again with her husband and experiencing the great outdoors. Moby wears his little life jacket on the sailboat and enjoys life on the high seas as well.

    Thinking back on her experience and her new life as a survivor, she thinks of all the people who have or will have this disease. She would like more awareness of the disease, especially in light of the fact that it affects both men and women and is affecting younger and younger people.

    Spreading the light of the blue star

    Colorectal cancer. "I'd like them to change that, I wish they would call it a gastrointestinal cancer. People don't like the word 'colon.' People don't want to go for a colonoscopy. Breasts are sexy; a colon isn't sexy. Everybody knows that the pink ribbon is for breast cancer, but nobody knows that the blue star is for colon cancer." So when she says, "I'm Lorn from Hope Valley, Rhode Island, and I'm a colorectal cancer survivor," she is shedding light on a common cancer that afflicts many, including a healthy, vibrant younger woman such as herself. And she hopes that others will follow her lead, go for routine colonoscopies and pay attention to any symptoms, no matter how minor they may seem.

    Today, she is healthy, cancer free and enjoying life more than ever. However, she expresses a lingering fear-"My body did this once, could it do it again?" She spoke about her concerns with Safran, who assured her that such a recurrence is unlikely with this disease. Then she adds, "But you know what, as crazy as this sounds, I think 'if something else happens, I know where I'm coming. I know where my team is.' And that's a great comfort."