CARROLLTON, Ga. - Constance Buchanan is 35, a mother of two, wife, and a survivor.
"My mother had colon cancer, so I did have a history of it," the Carrollton, Georgia mom says. "But I still didn't really know the signs the symptoms, or anything like that. And, even though I knew she had it, I still thought I was too young to worry about it."
Buchanan was only 33 at the time. Most people don't start getting screened for colorectal cancer until they're 50. But, the logistics manager for a playground company had pain, sometimes bleeding, when she'd go to the bathroom.
"I Googled, 'Well, it could be this. I could have this," Buchanan says.
She figured there had to be an easy answer. She never expected that answer would be "cancer."
"The unfortunate part of colon cancer is most people don't get warnings," says Dr. David Griffin, Chief of Colorectal Surgery at Tanner Medical Center. " But if you do get a warning, it's a blessing in disguise."
Griffin says never ignore symptoms like blood in your stool, or any kind of bleeding or major change in our bowel habits.
"Everybody has their [own] way they go, and if it changes, then that should be investigated as well," Dr. Griffin says.
Constance Buchanan waited about a year before her doctor pushed her to get a colonoscopy.
"I think even the doctor that did my colonoscopy thought it was going to be something that was an easy fix," she says.
"I was in the recovery room, still trying to recover from being groggy, and he comes in, and he wasn't sugar-coating it," She remembers. "He was, like, 'You have a cancerous mass in your rectum.' And I said, "Okay, what do we do now?'"
Constance had chemotherapy, radiation, then surgery. Dr. Griffin removed the mass and part of her colon. At first, Buchanan says, she was taken aback by the news she would need to wear a colostomy bag to collect the waste that used to pass through her digestive system.
The hardest part?
"Just the irritation of it, and the anger of it, and being scared to go out in public because something may happen," she says.
But Buchanan and her husband Mark went online and learned everything they could about the colostomy pouch, watching tutorials on YouTube for how to use it.
Two years later, she says, she's made peace with her pouch, because she can do everything everyone else can do.
"I look at it as, it's kind of like my survival trophy," Buchanan says. "It's not a handicap, it's not embarrassing."
In November of 2016, 8 months after her diagnosis, Constance Buchanan heard the magic words: no evidence of cancer.
"I look back on it now, and it's something really, really hard to deal with it," she says, "But I look back and I think wow, I did it, I accomplished that. I'm okay now!"
Actually, Constance Buchanan is better than "okay."
"I feel great now, I really do," she smiles.