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One in a Million

One in a Million

Meet Vanessa: an inspiring colorectal cancer survivor and activist.


My Story

In late 2001, I began to experience pain in my lower left abdomen. As a healthy 28-year-old, I didn’t suspect it was anything serious. One year later, I was rushed to the emergency room and my life quickly turned upside down.

I was diagnosed with stage 4 early onset colorectal cancer. My mind immediately went to my son. I was most worried because he was only 11 years old at the time.

My mother encouraged me to find what little comfort I could by seeking the best care possible. The best was Memorial Sloan Kettering.

My First Moments at MSK

And then I met Dr. Leonard Saltz who not only comforted me, but gave me the power I lost with my diagnosis. He told me that my journey was my own – that I was in control of it.

Sometimes think I had the strength to survive because he believed in me.

When you know you are going to be taken care of, it makes a big difference in your fight. And when you’re fighting for your life, those things become the big things.

VANESSA,

MSK Patient

Treatment was so difficult. Everything that could go wrong, did. The nurses on the fifteenth floor even started calling me, “one-in-a-million-girl.”

Despite this, I found the strength to face each day with optimism.

An Unforgettable Moment

While preparing for open-heart surgery due to treatment complications, I remember asking myself if I had the strength to make it through.

All of a sudden, it hit me. I finally understood why this was happening.

My life wasn’t really my own any more. I was here to give back. In that moment, I decided to dedicate my life to bringing attention to young adult colorectal cancer.

My Next Chapter

I started volunteering with the Colon Cancer Alliance and with other colon cancer non profits. Now I also serve on the C5 Committee in New York City, and serve as the Grassroots Chair on the Alliance's Never Too Young Advisory Board.

I am a certified patient navigator and do advocate training in Washington, D.C. My life is now all about advocating for colon cancer awareness and giving hope and inspiration to those still in the fight.

An Everlasting Impact

It’s because of Dr. Saltz and my entire MSK team that I’m alive – and not only because of the medical innovation they have to offer. MSK filled all of my needs.

Donor support and community activism is vital to making this level of care possible. I will always have the deepest gratitude for MSK, and all of the doctors, nurses, and caregivers who go beyond the standard of patient care.

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