BETHLEHEM, PA (APRIL 11, 2017) – A Global Dinner Gala, to benefit the Judith Adele Agentis Charitable Foundation, brought 125 guests out to a lively evening of entertainment, international cuisine and auction items at Blue Event Center, on March 16.
The gala helped raised funds for early cancer detection education, and hospice meals. Ashely Russo of ASR Media and The Peak TV served as emcee.
Featured guest speaker was Kendall Bello, a resident of Yardley, PA in Bucks County. Kendall is a mother, wife, daughter, avid equestrian, friend, and recent colon cancer survivor.
Her poignant speech earned a standing ovation. Here, is what she told the guests about why she believes early detection cancer testing is paramount.
“I’m here to tell you why early detection is so important. I’m living proof that waiting until the recommended time for a colonoscopy, which is fifty years of age, may for some people, be too late.
Personally, I saw no need to have testing before age fifty since there was no prior history of colon cancer, or any cancer at all in my family history.
On June 7th, 2015, I was experiencing a bowel obstruction causing me to visit St. Mary’s Medical Center emergency room. At that time, I was sent home with instructions to follow hoping it would resolve the problem, unfortunately it did not. I went back to the emergency room the following evening, and again I was sent home with more instructions to follow. To no avail. Nothing was resolving the issue. That evening I received a phone call from a doctor at St. Mary’s whom I had never met or had seen in the ER. She said that she had come across my chart and that I needed to come back to the hospital ASAP.
Upon arrival they began a series of testing. One of which was a CAT scan, which came back showing no obvious cause. The next test was a colonoscopy which identified a cancerous tumor. The doctors explained the situation to my husband and me, which unfortunately I did not fully comprehend. At this point, I was very weak and a little disoriented due to being obstructed for a week. There were various opinions among the doctors on how to proceed.
It was Dr. Goldstein, head of the Colon Rectal department, who decided that I needed emergency surgery. The surgery lasted five and a half hours to remove a cancerous tumor in my colon and insert an ostomy.
Upon awakening, my life as I knew it was drastically changed. Not only fully understanding at this point that it was a cancerous tumor which was stage 2A, but that I would be living with an ostomy for the next seven months. It was a lot to absorb both physically and mentally. The good news was that the tumor had not broken completely through the colon wall and was not present in any other organs. The tumor was uniquely located, and that is why it was not showing up on any of the scans. Since the surgery was very extensive I was very weak, so my doctors decided it was best to leave the wound open to heal verses going back into surgery again to close it.
So, after two weeks in the hospital, I was sent home with a Wound Vac which is a machine that is attached to the incision to help the wound heal faster. The wound remained open for three months until it finally healed. I had nurses three to four times a week, coming to our home to change the dressing for the next three months.
Simultaneously, I had the decision as to whether or not to undergo chemotherapy. Since there is no conclusive research as far as stage 2a colon cancer goes, it made the decision that much more difficult. Ultimately, I decided to proceed with the chemotherapy for six months, with infusions every other Monday. Going into the chemo, I wasn’t aware of how relentless it was going to be to go through the 2 week cycles. Essentially, I felt sick for the first week and a half after each treatment, then had a couple of good days and went right back into the cycle again.
After six months of that and the initial surgery, somehow I made it through.
Post chemo, in February of 2016 I had surgery to reconnect the colon which also meant removing the ostomy which meant I was beyond thrilled. However, I didn’t realize what a tough recovery that would be. It took my colon quite a while to “wake up” as they say, and then came the long haul of figuring out what I could and could not eat to avoid the major pain that it sometimes caused.
I then was diagnosed with post surgical hernias in the fall of 2016. I had the hernia surgery this past January 30th 2017. The recovery was about six weeks which leads me to today. I am cancer-free and have been given the green light to be able to ride my horse and get back into training and competing.
I also would like to mention a very important aspect to all of this as well. This disease not only effects the person that is diagnosed, but effects the family members in a very traumatic way. To see how difficult it was for all of them broke my heart. My husband, mother and father were there with me through this entire ordeal which I could not have done without them. To watch my 10-year-old son watch his mother go through this is something that I hope no one has to experience. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get a colonoscopy by 50, however I’m an advocate for getting one in your 40’s if possible based on my on experience. I was very happy to see a couple weeks ago that The Washington Post reported about a study that was published February 28th in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute which indicates colorectal cancer rates are rising sharply among Gen X and millennials. One conclusion in that study is that colonoscopy guidelines need to be re-examined based on the increase in incidents in people under fifty.
I want to thank my medical team at St. Mary’s Hospital, and Dr. Richard Goldstein head of the colon rectal department, Dr. Dan Lebovic my oncologist, and everyone in-between who helped save my life.
I also want to give a big thanks to Tina and Bob Agents for running such a wonderful foundation and hosting an amazing event. Bringing attention to how important early detection is in saving lives and providing meals and support to the families with loved ones going through treatment and fighting this terrible disease could not be a more noble cause.
As a final point, my experience has taught me a great deal about myself. One’s natural inclination is to ask God why he is putting us through trials and tribulations. And I did ask that at times, but in the end, I choose not to focus on that, I choose to thank God:
- For blessing me with a tumor that obstructed which led to early detection, resulting in discovering it prior to when the stages would have been more dangerous.
- For keeping the tumor in my colon and not allowing it to spread into other organs.
- For allowing the surgeons to be able to remove the entire tumor safely.
- For allowing my colon tissue to be strong enough for the surgeons to reconnect it.
- For allowing me to get through the chemotherapy.
- And finally, for allowing me to stand here before you as a cancer survivor.
I choose to be thankful to God.
Thank you again for listening to my story.”
The Judith Adele Agentis Charitable Foundation is a Lehigh Valley–based 5013c nonprofit. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit www.jaacf.org, or call 610-392-5460. Follow on Facebook at JAACF org, or Twitter at @Jaacforg.