Mila’s Journey: One Woman’s Fight Against Colon Cancer

Jo-Carolyn Goode | 3/31/2017, 7:15 a.m.
“This has got to be a joke,” thought Jamila Barefield. Yes, a very crude and ill joke that someone was ...

“This has got to be a joke,” thought Jamila Barefield. Yes, a very crude and ill joke that someone was playing on her. But there were no lights, no cameras, or studio audience. It was just her lying in a bed surrounded by four blank walls with tubes everywhere staring blankly in the face of a doctor. And in a very cold, disconnected matter, the doctor parted his lips and utter three horrific words, “You have cancer.”Then the doctor turned and walked away while Jamila was left alone with her thoughts.

Jamila and Brian Barefield (Brian is Houston Style's sports writer.)

Jamila and Brian Barefield (Brian is Houston Style's sports writer.)

That is how Jamila’s world was flipped on its head in 2014. As she sat and pondered how she could have colon cancer she thought about the last few months before this day. Her colon was just recently examined at the end of 2013. Her colon appeared so well that the doctor only examined half her colon. She was sent home with some antibiotics for a small problem she was having. That doctor’s mistake was a contributor to how Jamila ended up where she is today. If that doctor would have completed Jamila’s entire colon examine he would have seen the tumors, which were still small at that time making the colon cancer very treatable. But he missed it.

Still, in pain Jamila goes to another doctor who tells her that her appendix is about to burst and she needs immediate surgery. It is during that surgery that doctors see why her appendix is inflamed. It is being pushed upon by a tumor. She had stage IV colon cancer and only had a 10% chance to live at just 36-years-old.

Jamila is not alone in her fight. Colon cancer patients are getting younger and younger. The stigma to age is the problem. If you look at most health checklist the age that you are advice to start colorectal cancer screenings is at 50. Hence why a lot of doctors think of it as an older person's disease and rarely screen younger adults for it. But there are people as young as 17 years of age with colon cancer. Studies indicate that over 13,000 new cases of colon cancer will be diagnosed in people under 50 this year. Doctors are examining now whether to revised guidelines because of this growing problem.

So what exactly is colon cancer? Cancer, in general, is one of the top five leading causes of death in women. The American Cancer Society defines colon cancer as cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum. Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer and can spread to other areas of the body. Most colorectal cancers begin as a growth called a polyp on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Some types of polyps can change into cancer over the course of several years, but not all polyps become cancer. The chance of changing into cancer depends on the kind of polyp.