Some of our biggest supporters here at Be Seen, Get Screened come from the brave group of people who have survived colon cancer themselves. To highlight their experiences, we regularly feature survivors in Q&As here on the Be Seen, Get Screened blog.
Our latest Q&A profiles Fiona Finn, a realtor, author, mother, and colon cancer survivor. At just 41 years old, Fiona discovered she had Stage III colon cancer. As if her diagnosis wasn't daunting enough, her husband filed for divorce six months into her cancer battle.
Fiona's story has captivated thousands of people across the country, whether it's through reading her new autobiographical book or popular Huffington Post blog. With eloquent flair and a fantastic wit, she writes about her experiences in order to offer support to other patients who may find themselves in a situation similar to hers.
We had the opportunity to talk with Fiona about her experience with colon cancer and how she used it to give a voice to survivors all over the world.
BSGS: Can you tell us a bit about your experience with colon cancer?
Fiona Finn: I was diagnosed in December of 2009 with Stage III colon cancer at the age of 41 years old. Within six months I was served divorce papers by my husband of almost ten years. I could have handled my battle with colon cancer better with the love and support of my spouse.
Abandonment during cancer treatment is an insidious phenomenon. Statistically 21% of women end up separated or divorced within six months after their diagnosis compared to husbands facing cancer.
For me, it created chaos within our family and ultimately, left me feeling like a desperate housewife. The news he left filled me with despair.
Instead of focusing all of my energy on my battle with cancer, I refocused it on trying to save our marriage. Like many other women in similar circumstances I didn’t complete my therapy and had a higher rate of hospitalization.
BSGS: How did colon cancer change you and your outlook on life?
Fiona Finn: After my recovery, I wanted to make a difference. So, I kept pressing forward no matter what hardships were in my way.
Honestly, I wanted to find meaning in the midst of the wreckage left behind. Cancer can and does affect every part of your life including but not limited to: marital, social, physical, mental, emotional, financial, and spiritual.
I have become an advocate for those women abandoned during cancer treatment. Truly, I stumbled upon this cause without intention. The lot was cast into my lap, but the decision to graciously accept my circumstance and help others was my choice.
If I can inspire others in the form of wise words, either written or spoken from my experience as a survivor then I count myself as blessed. How can I not be? I found a very worthy purpose.
BSGS: What are you doing to raise awareness of this disease?
Fiona Finn: Since my life has forever been altered by colon cancer and an untimely divorce, I feel driven to raise awareness about both issues. Not only have I written a book about my journey but I also blog for the Huffington Post in order to steer those towards getting a colonoscopy and prioritizing their health.
BSGS: Tell us a bit about your new book, RAW: One Woman's Journey through Love, Loss, & Cancer. What made you decide to write about your cancer, and how has it shaped your outlook on the experience as a whole?
Fiona Finn: The catalyst for writing this book was certainly the fact my spouse abandoned me but my memoir actually travels through two decades of my life. It’s definitely a real page turner.
Cancer made me fearless, thus I was able to share my life’s story which includes a cesspool of amoral behavior by not just one but two ex-husbands. Really, it’s not just an explosive tell-all but a very thoughtful attempt to submit to all of my sorrow, fear, and anger.
Raw is not refined or candy coated but a shocking retrospection that leads to inner strength and survival.
BSGS: What advice do you have for others who are battling colon cancer, especially those who may be facing their illness without the support of a spouse?
Fiona Finn: God, great question, thought provoking. It’s so cliché but I want to tell him or her to be strong and courageous. I know, I know, they don’t want to hear that. The just want to be loved
I won’t lie to you; nothing sucks more than feeling all alone. It really is his loss, and your gain. You are worth so much more than you’ve been shown.
Remember actions speak louder than words. You will survive, and things will get better. You must become your own best friend.
BSGS: In your opinion, why is it important for people to be educated about colon cancer and its associated symptoms and risk factors?
Fiona Finn: Once you learn that colorectal cancer - cancer of the colon or rectum - is the 2nd leading cause of cancer related deaths in the U.S. you just can’t ignore how important it is to learn about the symptoms and risk factors.
It’s about gaining knowledge, and that knowledge is power: the power to save yours or a loved one’s life!
BSGS: Lastly, what is one thing you would like people to take away from your story?
I’ve had my share of loss and struggles -- more than some and less than others. Don’t we all have our crosses to bear? And really, it was much easier to survive cancer than to confront my shadow after surviving an abusive relationship with my ex-husband.
I had to accept that God answered my call to save my life, for both my kids and myself. Since I didn’t want to become just another victim, I decided to fight back and make a difference in the fight against cancer.
Now, the ‘Big C’ in my life will always be my children.
Learn more about Fiona on her website, www.fiona-finn.com.