Editor’s note: Brooks Bell is the founder and CEO of her eponymous brand consulting firm.
RALEIGH — A year ago, I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. It’s been a tough year: 6 months of surgery and chemotherapy, followed by intense health recovery. I have made dramatic changes to my diet, fitness routine, and stress. This month, I received the news I’ve been fantasizing about all year: I’m cancer-free. A groundbreaking blood test determined that there is not a single molecule of my tumor cells currently in my blood. That, combined with a clear CT scan, means that there is a 95% chance that my cancer is gone and won’t return. I am overjoyed.
When I received the news, Jes and I were just waking up in the Dominican Republic after celebrating our 21st anniversary together. I burst into tears of joy, and felt the burden of uncertainty lifting off my chest. It was a surreal moment. I’d gotten accustomed to clawing back my health, questioning feelings of wellbeing. It was easy to imagine being one of the unlucky ones who has the cancer come back and spread (after all, I was already unlucky enough to get cancer in the first place).
This is what makes cancer so hard for many: even when you’re done with your treatment, it takes years to fully relax again because – up until now — our existing technology has prevented us from knowing if the treatment was truly successful.
The molecular test that I took is a cutting-edge technology called Natera. It gives cancer patients personalized testing that involves doing ultra-deep DNA sequencing on your tumor cells, and then matching those to your blood to see if they are still floating around in your body.
It just got FDA breakthrough status in May, and I was the first patient at Duke Cancer Center to receive it.
I believe this test may be part of a paradigm shift in the cancer industry. It’s a perfect example of the promise of personalized medicine and machine learning. It is going to give patients clear insight on whether their treatment has been successful, and maybe even if chemotherapy is even necessary for them. It’s pretty incredible, and I am so lucky to be able to benefit from it. Go Duke! Go Natera!
I will be celebrating toasting my health – and the 50 Colonoscopies Under 50 honorees – with my friends and supporters at The Colonoscopy Gala on Feb. 28 at CAM Raleigh. I would love for you to be there with me (especially if you are based in NC).
This may be the first ever Colonoscopy Gala in the history of time. A colonoscopy is the most effective way to protect yourself from colon cancer, and it deserves a night to be celebrated.
It’ll be an “evening to remember.” We will have a super talented chef doing a five-course seated dinner for us, and you may be able to even get bring home a one-of-a-kind street-artist designed Tushy Ottoman..
And of course, it’s for a good cause; all proceeds go to the astonishingly underfunded Colorectal Cancer Alliance.
Tickets are $175 each, and are available until Feb. 17. RSVP or donate here.