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Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: Young Colorado survivor encourages others to get checked

Cynthia Delgado Rojas started noticing symptoms more than two years ago, before turning 40
Cynthia Delgado Rojas
Posted at 5:52 PM, Mar 27, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-27 19:52:46-04

PARKER, Colo. — Kate Middleton’s Earth-shattering cancer diagnosis last week puts a spotlight on a troubling worldwide trend: The Princess of Wales is part of a growing number of young people now getting cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is now the No. 1 cause of cancer death for men under 50 and No. 2 for women in that same age range.

“I just finished the pills,” said Cynthia Delgado Rojas, who now has a new lease on life, having finished chemotherapy recently.

Cynthia is the same age as the Princess of Wales — 42. Cynthia can now call herself a cancer survivor, beating stage 3 colon cancer after she was diagnosed in October last year.

Cynthia Delgado Rojas

“That was shocking,” her husband, Winston Delgado Rojas, remembered.

The road to the diagnosis and recovery for Cynthia wasn’t without many bumps along the way.

Her journey started more than two years ago with a visit to her primary care doctor.

“I was starting to see some blood in my stools,” she said. “I just had a dear friend pass away from stage 4 colon cancer.”

Given that Cynthia was younger than 40 at the time, her doctor wasn’t overly concerned.

“She suspected I just had internal hemorrhoids,” Cynthia said.

About eight months passed and the symptoms persisted, becoming even more frequent, so Cynthia went back to her primary care doctor.

“And she did some bloodwork to rule out any autoimmune diseases and there was nothing that came up in the bloodwork,” she said. “Another eight months went by, and it was all the time. So, I went back to her a third time.”

That’s when her doctor finally ordered a colonoscopy. Afterward, her doctor told her about the cancer diagnosis.

“Hearing cancer and then hearing things like it was stage 3 — it’s a shock,” Winston said. “It’s something you just don’t expect to ever hear. Definitely not something I was expecting.”

That’s when Dr. Brandon Chapman, a colorectal surgeon with AdventHealth Parker, came into the picture.

“They did a colonoscopy and saw a nearly obstructing mass in the sigmoid colon, meaning they were unable to advance the scope beyond the tumor,” he said.

Chapman and his team scheduled surgery right away to remove the tumor.

“Everything went well,” Chapman said. “We did it robotically with small incisions.”

Cynthia Delgado Rojas

“It turned out — out of the lymph nodes they pulled out, which was 20-something, one of them had cancer in it,” Cynthia said.

So chemotherapy began.

“We want to make sure that we get all those lymph nodes because that’s one of the main indications for guiding decisions on chemotherapy,” Chapman said. “We got 23 lymph nodes out on her and one of those was positive for cancer.”

Cynthia is sharing her story for several reasons. First, she said it's important to trust your body.

“If you see anything, go, and force the subject,” she said. “Because if anything’s abnormal you should get checked. That was the only sign I had.”

Chapman added that it is reasonable to get a second opinion elsewhere.

“You can go somewhere,” Winston said. “It’s OK to get a second opinion or a third opinion. You have to advocate for yourself, ultimately.”

March is also Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month — a good time to get checked.

"Over the last 15 to 20 years, we’ve noticed the incidents of cancer among people under the age of 50 has gone up," Chapman said.

Incidents of colorectal cancer are on the rise and the guidelines for colonoscopy screening have been lowered from 50 years old to 45.

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: Young Colorado survivor encourages others to get checked

“I think a lot of diet habits play a role,” Cynthia said. “They said it was something I was exposed to sometime in my life. It wasn’t genetic.”

She hopes her story helps others to advocate for themselves and get the care they need.

“We got negative margins, so we think she is cured from the cancer,” Chapman said.

“I don’t have symptoms,” Cynthia added. "No blood. That’s gone. I’m feeling good."

“She’s always been super strong, so I wasn’t really surprised by her being able to do all that,” her husband said.

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