My name is Katie Lee, and I was diagnosed with stage 1 rectal cancer at age 33, only eight months after the birth of my second child. My tumor was ultra-low in the rectum and required much of my involuntary sphincter muscles to be removed to achieve clear margins, so I opted for a permanent colostomy in order to avoid continence issues. Prior to cancer and two autoimmune disease diagnoses in my twenties, I had thought of becoming a nurse, but I had fears of taking all the math and science courses needed. I didn’t have the confidence to pursue nursing and it wasn’t until after my cancer diagnosis that I realized I had already faced my worst fears and that nursing school was something that I could do and should pursue.
After learning to manage my own colostomy, I knew this is the group of people I wanted to focus on in my nursing career.
I met many other early-onset colorectal cancer survivors through The Colon Club and Fight CRC who inspired me to live my life to the fullest and knew there was no time to waste. After some convincing, my husband was on board to make the sacrifices needed in order to allow me to go back to school. I am continually amazed and inspired by people who are facing chronic illnesses like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, colorectal cancer and other conditions that require bowel diversion surgeries whether temporary or permanent and I plan to advocate for this patient population throughout my career as a registered nurse and beyond. After learning to manage my own colostomy, I knew this is the group of people I wanted to focus on in my nursing career.
My ultimate goal is to become a board-certified wound, ostomy and continence nurse (CWOCN). I plan to specialize in ostomies and wounds once I complete the academic requirements and gain the necessary clinical experience. I recently graduated nursing school with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) which accomplishes two goals I had after my cancer diagnosis: getting an undergraduate degree and becoming a nurse! I cannot give enough credit to my husband who without his infinite support I would not have been able to accomplish this goal, he believed in me from the very beginning.