Severe stomach pain reveals a life-threatening blockage

Colon cancer patient Deborah Adent (Yiatras-Yarber). (Tracy Grosshans, ©2021 Henry Ford Health System/Photo provided by Henry Ford)

While Deborah Adent (Yiatras-Yarber) was spending the day with her son, helping him move and taking breaks to enjoy pizza and wine, she suddenly experienced severe stomach pain.

She headed home, thinking it would go away, but the following day, she developed a slight fever along with the pain, and decided it was time to visit the emergency room.

During the emergency room visit, Adent received a CT scan that revealed she was suffering from diverticulitis. Doctors gave her a round of antibiotics to clear up the infection and she was sent home.

Just three months later, Adent was back with similar symptoms and was told she needed a colonoscopy and endoscopy, as well as a follow-up with a gastroenterologist.

“I could barely walk or talk during both ER visits -- the pain was so severe,” Adent said. “But after the second ER visit, I felt a lot better, so I went on vacation with my family, thinking maybe it had cleared up for good.”

When Adent returned from vacation, she still felt great, but she knew she needed to follow up with the recommended testing. She scheduled an appointment with Henry Ford gastroenterologist, Kimberly Tosch, M.D., who set her up for a colonoscopy and endoscopy.

When Adent woke up after the colonoscopy, Dr. Tosch explained that she had near obstructing colon cancer and needed surgery. Adent was scheduled for surgery at Henry Ford Hospital two weeks later with Henry Ford colorectal surgeon, Shawn Webb, M.D.

Screening saves lives

Adent was diagnosed with stage 2 colon cancer. She also had an obstruction, which is often life-threatening. It is a late sign of colon cancer that is not always treatable or curable.

“In order for the cancer to become obstructing, it has to have been there growing for a long period of time,” Dr. Webb said. “Deborah was behind on her screenings, but luckily, she persisted in follow-up. That allowed her to have a good long-term outcome.”

The most common colon cancer screening test is a colonoscopy. It can detect and treat precancerous growths to lower your risk of developing colon cancer. If found early, colon cancer is one of the most curable cancers, and screenings are recommended to begin at the age of 45.

Deborah and her kids. (©2021 Henry Ford Health System/Photo provided by Henry Ford)

Successful surgery and restful recovery

The surgery took place in December 2019 and successfully removed Adent’s obstruction. In April 2020, she began a three-month chemotherapy treatment plan to address the possible spread into other areas of her body.

“In Deborah’s case, we identified that she would benefit from a pill form of chemotherapy, known as capecitabine, that statistically reduced her risk of recurrence,” said Dawn Severson, M.D., Medical Director of Medical Oncology at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital, and Medical Director of the Henry Ford Cancer Institute North East Region and Cancer Survivorship Program.

“My recovery took place during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, so I did nothing but rest,” Adent said. “Completely shutting down to allow my body to rest, plus the incredible support from my friends and family, helped my body to heal fully.”

Following chemotherapy, Adent’s blood was tested to check for a successful outcome, and everything came back OK. She recently went in for a follow-up colonoscopy, and the cancer is gone. She is now on a five-year screening plan.

“It was a miracle, and it began a total transformation for me,” Adent said. “God was telling me it was time to let go and heal my entire life.”

Positive affirmations

“I want people to know there is so much power in your thoughts, and it’s only a death sentence if you look at it that way,” Adent said.

She is back to living her life to the fullest. She works full-time as a caregiver at a senior assisted living facility and enjoys spending time with her five grandchildren. She loves bird watching, photography and collecting crystals, and recently resumed a crafting and wood-working business with her daughter.

She encourages others to make a point to get their colonoscopy, regardless of family history.

“It is one of the most preventative tools, and it saved my life,” she said.