Is there a cure for cancer?
This is a story of a 28-year old who's already beaten cancer 4 times.
Lauren Marler began having disturbing symptoms at the age of 15. Somehow, she knew it was cancer. After doing some of her own research, she realized she was right. But that was just the beginning of the her horrific odyssey. Marler's doctors discovered that what she had was much worse than she thought...
"I looked up my symptoms and knew I had all the signs for colon cancer", she says. "I couldn't tell my mom face-to-face, so I wrote her a letter, to tell her that I knew I had cancer. My mom thought I was overreacting."
When doctors performed an endoscopy and colonscopy on her, they confirmed what Marler had feared all along. At the age of 17, she had full-blown cancer.
"The doctor who performed the tests was crying. They had never seen a case as bad as mine, and that I needed to go to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center immediately," Marler recalls. There she met with Miguel Rodriguez-Bigas, MD, FACS, FASCRS, who removed her entire colon and almost all her rectum.
Nine months later, the cancer returned.
Upon hearing the news, she almost broke down, "You've got to be kidding me. I just want to be a normal kid." Another surgery, followed by three months of chemotherapy. This time, her cancer battles had to be over.
During a routine scan five years later in remission, Marler got a call she never though she would get again. "I was at work and the doctor called to tell me that the scan showed a spot in my uterus. The biopsy revealed that it was endometrial cancer, and it's an aggressive one."
This time she had a full hysterectomy.
Puzzled by Marler's history, Dr. Rodriguez-Bigas recommended that she get genetic testing. The testing revealed that Marler had an incredibly rare disorder called CMMRD (Constitutional Mismatch Repair Deficiency). It means that she was extremely vulnerable to a variety of cancers. There is no treatment available for the disorder and it is extremely rare. Less than 100 people in the United States have this condition.
Three year later, Marler had a lingering sinus infection.
"I just keep coughing. I was nauseated and running a high fever." Marler was admitted to the hospital and scanned. Doctors found a suspicious spot on a lymph node. The biopsy showed lymphoma, one of the hardest type of cancer to treat.
"The doctors said that the treatment was going to be so grueling that I would hate them by the time it was over. They were right." Marler had six different types of chemotherapy simultaneously, of which one was delivered through her spinal cord. "I was so weak I couldn't get off of my couch. I lost all of my hair, and I had severe body aches," she recalls.
Today, at 28, Marler is once again in remission, something she definitely doesn't take for granted. "I laugh a lot. That's the one thing my family does really well. We can find humor in any situation. I've always found a way to laugh. I do worry about what's next, but I can't let it consume me. I've learned to live with it."
Marler has some advice to others who might be young and too embarrassed to seek help for uncomfortable symptoms.
"Find a way to get the help you need. You have to tell someone. Even if it's writing a letter like I did, find someone you're comfortable with that you can tell. If I had waited longer, I would have died in my 20s."