Surviving Well: Shelly, Colon Cancer

When Shelly Mercer turned 50, she decided to follow the recommended screening guidelines from the American Cancer Society and have a colonoscopy done. 


“Through my job, I had gotten to know Dr. Susan Sgambati, a surgeon specializing in colon cancer at Rose,” Shelly says. “Knowing that she had been named a top doctor in Denver several times, I went to see her for the test.” 

It was good decision on Shelly’s part, because the results of the colonoscopy were not so good– Dr. Sgambati had discovered a tumor the size of a fist that was blocking up much of Shelly’s colon.

”Dr. Sgambati waited for my husband to get there before sitting down with us to tell us the news,” Shelly recalls. “She scheduled me for surgery right away, and they took out 20 lymph nodes, 9 of which had cancer, and diagnosed me at Stage 3 colon cancer.”

After surgery, Shelly started chemotherapy treatments for six months with Dr. Alan Feiner.

“I remember going in for my first round of chemo, and I was really anxious and nervous,” Shelly says. “Dr. Feiner and his whole staff are really good at explaining everything and helping put you at ease when you start your treatments.”

Shelly did struggle with some side effects from the chemo, including low red blood count levels and a pins and needles feeling in her limbs, but says that the support of her family and friends helped get her through.

“Everyone was so nice, and made sure that my family was taken care of during my treatment,” Shelly says. “I also had a friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer 5 days after I found out I had colon cancer, and we really helped each other, since we were going through similar experiences.”

Shelly finished her chemotherapy in May of 2011 and was happy that she was able to see her youngest daughter get married in June of 2011. She still has to see her doctors very regularly for testing and checkups.

“When I was going through treatment, my family and my faith played a huge part in my recovery,” Shelly says. “For me, being there at my daughter’s wedding was really important. I also knew that I had to give up all of my worries and trust that in the end it would be okay.”

Shelly is thankful that she followed the testing guidelines and had her colonoscopy when recommended.

“If I hadn’t had the colonoscopy when I did, I don’t know what would have happened, or if I would even be here,” Shelly says. “Now, I encourage everyone I know to go and get screened.”

The Rose “Surviving Well” Calendar is a 12-month calendar highlighting our cancer services, physicians, and some inspirational stories from our patients. Shelly is our survivor for March, which is also Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

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