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Nurse shares her story about beating colon cancer

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — June 4 is National Cancer Survivors Day, and Michele Ridge, chief nursing officer for IU Health Paoli, has quite a story to tell.

In 2009, Ridge experienced a 30-pound drop in her weight and had irregular bowel movements. She knew something wasn’t right, and saw a doctor.

“(They said) I had a rectal tumor. I had polyps all the way through my colon that looked cancerous, they took out a lot,” Ridge said.

She was relieved to know what the problem was but now faced a year-long treatment regimen. “It was a lot to take in all in one day, to go from being a health care provider to being someone who is going to be the patient for a year,” said Ridge.

For six weeks, Ridge drove back and forth from Bloomington to Indianapolis for radiation treatment.

“Radiation is exhausting there is no exhaustion I can ever describe like it,” Ridge said. “Week 1 was fine, but you just kept getting more and more tired. It was probably the most physically exhausting part of the whole journey.”

Ridge says she is now cancer free. She’s grateful she had insurance to help cover the treatment, and that she’s seen her four children grow up. “It’s things like watching your child fall in love for the first time, and watching it and just taking the time to pay attention,” she said.

IU Health says 1 and 4 people diagnosed with colon cancer is at stage four at the beginning of their diagnosis, but if a doctor catches it early enough, the survival rate goes up.

“The advice that I give people is you know you best, if something isn’t right, go see somebody,” said Ridge.

Experts recommend men and women start screening themselves for colon cancer at age 45 by having regular colonoscopies or using at-home testing kits.