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Bothell colon cancer survivor forms connections with newly diagnosed patients

Colon cancer survivor Kay Leslie, left, enjoys her anniversary with husband Tom Leslie, right.  - Courtesy photo
Colon cancer survivor Kay Leslie, left, enjoys her anniversary with husband Tom Leslie, right.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

It was nearly a decade ago that Bothell resident Kay Leslie, 66, was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, an experience she said changed her life.

"When you hear the word 'cancer' it just stops you in your tracks. There's nothing worse," she said. "But it makes you look at life differently, appreciating the little moments we often take for granted."

During her diagnosis, Leslie was told she had three months to live. Determined to beat the odds, she underwent surgery to remove part of her colon and 16 lymph nodes. She then went through two six-month chemotherapy treatments.

"I am a positive person and decided not to listen to the negativity that was thrown at me," Leslie said. "I never thought I wouldn't make it; I knew I would survive. I was determined to do everything I could to beat this disease."

Now that Leslie is happy, healthy and free of cancer symptoms, she is using her experience to help other patients battling cancer. She is participating in various online cyber clubs, including www.inspire.com, where she interacts with people needing to speak with someone about their disease.

"It's such a scary time and you feel like no one understands what you are going through," Leslie said. "I never dish out advice on treatments they should do or anything like that; I am just there to love them, encourage them, support them and be their friend."

Leslie said she believes it was the support from her friends and husband, Tom, that got her through her battle against cancer.

"I don't think I could have gone through this without Tom being there holding my hand through everything," she said, tearing up. "He was my rock. Then I had tremendous support from my community; my friends, church members, coworkers, who all came to visit and encourage me."

Leslie said the best thing for people receiving a scary diagnosis to do is to tell everyone in their community about it.

"Some peoples' reaction is to go inward and not let anyone know," Leslie said. "I think that's harder. We need that strength from our friends and family, that push to get better because everyone is rooting for us."

Leslie also travels to various conventions to speak to cancer patients about the targeted cancer treatment, Avastin, she used to conquer colon cancer. She also appeared on King 5's New Day Northwest with her doctor to share her experience.

"I think it is so important to get the word out about what worked for me and how I battled this disease," Leslie said. "It never makes me sad to rehash my experience, it makes me empowered."

According to the American Cancer Society, 2,670 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer in the state of Washington alone this year. With March being Colon Cancer Awareness Month, Leslie said she believes it is time to increase awareness about the disease by sharing her story.

"I shouldn't be here," Leslie said. "But I am. And I want others that receive a death diagnosis to say, 'no, I am not going to just accept this; I am going to fight.'"

Leslie points out the best ward against cancer is early detection and prevention methods.

"If you have any relatives at all in your family that have had cancer before, go get checked out," she said. "And never think that if you're young, you are excluded, because I saw people as young as 22 years old getting chemotherapy treatments with me."

Leslie encourages those diagnosed with cancer to stay positive and find humor in their situation.

"If you think about it, a lot of funny things happen to you during treatments or what have you," she said. "I am one that has always gotten a good snort from any funny situation. I brought that attitude with me during my battle with cancer and came out laughing."

For more information on colon cancer, visit support.ccalliance.org/.

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