Honor Your Loved Ones
1981 - 2011
At the young age of 26, I was given the devastating news of a diagnosis that would change the course of my life forever. In June 15, 2007, I was diagnosed with Metastatic Colon Cancer. Stage IV—it had already spread to my liver and lungs. In the blink of an eye, my life completely changed, and my future was now uncertain. I was a young professional, in the prime of my life, and now I was a young woman fighting for my life. There was no time to waste; I had to immediately begin chemotherapy to stop the progression of my disease. I have been receiving consistent chemo treatments ever since. I am determined to get better and reach my goal of a clean scan without any evidence of disease, and I will do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. It has not been an easy road, but it's the road I am on, and I have accepted the situation that life has thrown my way.
I am very fortunate to receive some of the best medical care available. Dr. John Marshall, my local Oncologist here in Washington, D.C. at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in the Georgetown University Hospital, came into my life at a very critical time in my disease. I respect him so much--not only as a phenomenal physician--- but I also adore him as one of my greatest cheerleaders. I love his research and clinical approach along with his kind and compassionate demeanor. He provides a renewed hope that I so desperately need. Along with Dr. Marshall, I am also treated by an amazing multi-disciplinary team of physicians at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Dr. Kemeny, another phenomenal Oncologist who I am lucky to have has overseen my case for the last three years has played a significant role of developing treatments and procedures that increase Colon Cancer survival rates and improve quality of life. Since having surgery in November of 2007, the majority of the tumor on my liver had been removed, which included the 21 cm tumor that covered the right lobe of my liver. The remaining tumors or nodules in my body would be treated by either systemic or targeted chemotherapy. The primary tumor in my colon was also removed, along with many diseased lymph nodes and my gallbladder. A Hepatic Arterial Infusion (HAI) pump was placed in my abdominal cavity and would pump chemotherapy directly into my liver. Although the surgery was risky, it was very successful, and I can thank Dr. Ronald DeMatteo, my hepatic surgeon at MSKCC for that. I am also fortunate to have participated in a clinical trial where my liver tumors were treated with SIR spheres at MSKCC in October 2009, and am currently undergoing chemoembolization procedures at Georgetown.
Despite the side-effects that chemotherapy brings, I am determined to live a normal, happy, and otherwise healthy life. In October 2008, I married my college sweetheart, Michael Paul. It was the happiest day of my life; and knowing that I had overcome adversity to get to that day, made it even more special because at one point I didn't think I would live long enough to experience it. But, here I am today, three years since my diagnosis; and although I am still fighting to beat cancer each and every day, I feel that my "calling" in life is to help others find hope in their own cancer diagnosis by talking about my experience and battle with the disease. I am determined to explore every avenue to be able to share my story and increase awareness of metastatic colon cancer in young-adults. Recently, I have begun to become active in colorectal cancer advocacy through, Chris4life Colon Cancer Foundation, Fight Colorectal Cancer, and YES Beat Liver Tumors, which has helped me discover a new passion I was unaware I had.
Without the support from my family, my devoted husband Michael, huge network of friends, Team Fabulous, other cancer survivors I have met along the journey, and even strangers, I don't think I would be as strong as I am --or have had as much success. The power of prayer works, and I am a true testament to that statement. I have complete faith that God will bring me through this extremely difficult time in my life. This experience has taught me not to take life for granted, and to enjoy each and every day that I am blessed with. I try not to stress about silly, petty things anymore because it's just not worth it. Life is just too short and precious. Getting healthy and spending time with my family and friends is my top priority. I know something positive will come from this, and so much has already. I am hopeful that more than just my life is changed from this experience.
All of what you just read above came straight from Erica “Fabulous” herself. Sadly and with heavy hearts we lost Erica “Fabulous” Gough Paul on March 6, 2011 to this terrible disease. She fought to the very last day and never gave up HOPE. Her beautiful smile, laugh and spirit are missed everyday.
Are you at Risk For Colorectal Cancer?
- 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths for men and women combined
- Colonoscopies not only discover cancer, but can also stop cancer
- 50% of Americans still do not get colonoscopy reimbursement
- Colon cancer research is still vastly under-funded