Patient Story: Battling Fear and Colon Cancer

March 16, 2022

Chris MuskerChris Musker, a healthy and active 74-year-old resident of Billerica, was hesitant to receive a colonoscopy during her annual checkup. Although she always made sure her 80-year-old husband had his done, she refused, believing it would be incredibly painful.

When her stool sample contained traces of blood, her primary care provider told her there was no way around it - she needed a colonoscopy. She called the Colon Cancer Screening Center at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center (LHMC) and scheduled an appointment for the following week. Musker would have to face her fears.

During her colonoscopy, Ann Marie Joyce, MD, gastroenterology specialist, found a cancerous mass in Musker's colon. Fortunately, it was caught early enough that it could be surgically removed.

She was then connected with Angela H. Kuhnen, MD, FACS, FASCRS, colon and rectal surgeon, and less than two weeks later, was scheduled for surgery with the hopes of being cancer-free.

"After my meeting with my surgeon Dr. Kuhnen, she explained the procedure to both myself and my husband. I felt I had complete trust in what she was going to do. I did not believe I should take a chance with the life I have been given by putting surgery off," Musker shared.

Musker arrived for her procedure feeling an overwhelming sense of calm. During pre-op, she noticed how thoughtful each provider was being despite the number of patients awaiting surgery.

"Although things may have seemed hectic, the staff each did their job with efficiency, kindness, and a deep concern for the patient they were attending to. I will never forget the care, concern, and absolute love each patient was shown."

Musker knew that she may need to undergo chemotherapy or rely on an ostomy pouch following her procedure depending on how easily the cancer could be removed. She was primarily concerned her operation would limit the activities her and her husband love to do - dancing, camping, hiking, and exercising.

"I asked Dr. Kuhnen to do whatever it took to not have [an ostomy pouch]. I awoke after surgery and moved my hand to my side to find no bag! I was happy beyond words. I was released from LHMC five days after surgery and later that evening, Dr. Kuhnen called me to say that no other cancer was seen in my body which meant no chemo! I cried, I laughed, I thanked God, and I thanked her over and over again."

Today, she is about a month out from surgery, cancer-free, and healing well at home with her husband. They're looking forward to when they can get back to their daily exercise and bicycle rides! After her experience, Musker has changed her perspective on colonoscopies.

"A colonoscopy can save your life. It does not hurt! I always thought it hurt, so I did an at-home test. If that is what you are doing, please, please schedule your colonoscopy as soon as possible. By the time you see blood in your stool, it may very well be too late."

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Learn more about LHMC's Endoscopy Center and Colon & Rectal Surgery services.