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Raising awareness

Even if you’ve stared death straight in the eye, battled cancer and claimed victory, talking in front of a group of people can prove nerve-wracking.
Joyce Houser has told her story of surviving colon cancer to rooms packed with people, despite her stage fright. She’s decided overcoming her nervousness is worth raising awareness.
“If you can change one person’s life, save a life, it’s worth it,” she said.
Houser’s story begins in 2000 in her doctor’s office. She went to find out the source of her abdomen pain.
Things were going along fine, if slightly uncomfortably, when Houser’s doctor said something no one wants to hear.
“He came across the tumor, and he said ‘Oh my God, I think it’s cancer,” said Houser.
At the age of 37 with no history in her family, Houser thought she was too young for colon cancer. The news came as a shock.
In April of 2000, Houser was operated on. A full six months of chemotherapy followed.
During this time, Houser’s grandmother was also diagnosed with colon cancer. Unlike Houser, she didn’t survive.
Despite the circumstances of her life, Houser attempted to live a normal life and worked full time.
“I just felt like if I sat at home, I would just go crazy,” she said.
Her husband and son acted as her support. They were also emotionally affected by the disease, but they tried not to show it.
“I thought (my son) was doing fine, but the teachers told me he was quiet,” said Houser.
Fortunately life has lightened up a bit in the Houser household. These days, she has a clean bill of health; her stress comes from speaking engagements and food choices.
Houser knows, for example, red meat will do her no good. Even so, she can’t resist caving in and eating unhealthy food every now and then.
“You still eat them, but you think about it,” she said.
Houser has also become heavily involved in Relay for Life. This year, she is La-Z-Boy’s team captain.
This will be her fifth year participating the event. Her first year she was still in the middle of her battle with cancer.
The survivor’s lap is what sticks with her the most.
“It’s still emotional, especially when your family comes and joins the lap with you,” she said.
Houser gets check-ups every six months, and she encourages others to also be vigilant when it comes to their health.
“If they are having any kinds of problems and are unsure, they should go to a doctor,” she said.
This advice comes from experience – Houser’s cancer scare could have been a lot more serious.
“I did put mine off, and it was almost too late,” she said.
Thankfully for Houser and her family, the cancer was caught right in time.
by Sarah Grano

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