Wahpeton woman shares warning in hopes of saving others from colon cancer

“I want people to know a colonoscopy is so much easier than chemotherapy.”
Cindy Erbes
Cindy Erbes(KVLY)
Published: Mar. 30, 2022 at 6:22 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - There are several words none of us want to hear in life— Some of those being, ‘You have cancer.’

It was a devastating diagnosis last year for one Wahpeton woman, but she’s sharing her story in hopes of saving just one life as ‘Colon Cancer Awareness Month’ comes to a close.

“I was shocked, I was scared. Disbelief and denial,” Cindy Erbes said.

After an entire year with symptoms Erbes described as ‘annoying cramping’ that were only getting worse, doctors told her the colonoscopy she dodged one year prior would now have to happen.

“I avoided it because I didn’t want to go there,” Erbes said. “I had a colonoscopy 8 years earlier and was told that I wouldn’t need another for 10 years. So, being the person who wants to be in control, I was holding to that.”

Erbes says when she went in for the procedure in the summer of 2021, she thought she was going to walk out later that day with a Crohn’s disease diagnosis. Instead, she says she opened her eyes to what felt like a living nightmare.

“I did end up diagnosed stage 3,” she said.

Soon, surgery was scheduled where both a mass and six to eight inches of her intestine were removed. Erbes says six weeks after that she was starting chemotherapy.

“My motto became, ‘wait, pray, trust,’” Erbes said.

Erbes finished her last round of chemo earlier in March and is back to living life almost as normal as it was before, which includes being a grandma of five. Erbes says she is now also a voice of urgency for others to not be like her.

“I want people to know a colonoscopy is so much easier than chemotherapy,” Erbes said.

With 150,000 new cases diagnosed each year, colon cancer rings in as the second deadliest type of cancer. Doctors both locally and across the U.S. are echoing Erbes’ pleas, too, as the severity of the cancer significantly decreases the earlier it’s detected.

“The majority of people with early cancers have no symptoms at all which is why the screening is so important,” Dr. John Bassett, a Gastroenterologist at Sanford said.

The American Cancer Association has changed the recommended age for a colonoscopy from 50 to 45, with another every five to ten years after that depending on how high your risk of cancer increases with age and family history.

“More people are being diagnosed with colon cancer at a young age,” Bassett said. “45 is the new 50.”

“It’s just crucial to listen to your body and to know that the warning signs may not be the ones listed as colon cancer,” Erbes said.

“This is the success story,” Dr. Basset said. “I absolutely want those 5 grandchildren to know their grandmother, and I’m optimistic in Cindy’s case that that’s going to happen.”

Erbes thanked the many nurses and doctors both in Wahpeton and Fargo who have cared for and helped her over the last nine months, as well as her family and husband who have been steadfast in their love and support during such difficult and dark times.

“I do get choked up because I feel so blessed to be where I am now,” she said.

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