When Diana Zepeda started noticing her stomach issues, she chalked it up to a bad diet and stress. The 34-year-old from Washington, D.C, worked long hours and often ate from food trucks and delivery service.
After experiencing what seemed like random bouts of diarrhea for two years ago, Zepeda knew her eating habits had to change.
“I thought to myself — ‘I guess I shouldn’t eat sushi that was sitting in someone’s car for 40 minutes,’” Zepeda told TODAY, but the symptoms didn’t go away.
By January 2017, she noticed blood in her stool and the diarrhea was happening every other day. Finally, Zepeda visited gastroenterologist Dr. Jessica Korman.
When tests revealed the young woman carried E. coli in her stool, Korman prescribed antibiotics — but the prescription didn’t help.
“My symptoms didn’t get better — they got worse,” she said.
As a result, her doctor scheduled a colonoscopy — but Zepeda’s symptoms became even more acute. “I became nauseous and had severe abdominal cramps and nothing came out,” she said. “I couldn’t stop vomiting.”
Ultimately, a biopsy revealed the shocking diagnosis: Zepeda had stage 4 colon cancer.
“I was definitely in disbelief,” she told TODAY. “I don’t have a family history.”
Further testing showed that Zepeda’s cancer had also spread to her liver. Doctors recommended surgery to remove part of her colon, 75 per cent of her liver, 15 to 20 lymph nodes, her appendix and gall bladder.
“I was pretty paralyzed with shock.”
Now, after six months of chemotherapy Zepeda is almost finished with treatment.
“It is like the worst hangover of your life, but it is for six months,” she said. “I am tolerating it relatively well because I am younger and was pretty healthy beforehand.”
While there’s a 50 per cent chance her cancer will return in the next five years, Zepeda remains optimistic — though she’s disappointed with how long it took for her to visit a doctor in the first place.
“I have a chance to be completely cured,” she said. “There is nothing lucky about getting cancer, but I still feel like I am incredibly lucky.”
“Stop self-diagnosing and please go to the doctor.”