Fearing Cancer, Woman With Lynch Syndrome Has Colon Removed

Decades after Lynch's discovery, the Fishers were still not advised just how hereditary cancer could be, Lynne Fisher says. So the family had to suffer many more tragedies.

In 1997, her mother died of bowel cancer at 68. In 2006, her brother Clive had a colonoscopy in August. He was given a clean bill of health. By the next April, he was dead.

"If they'd made this connection long ago, maybe they could have saved my brother's life," Fisher says.

Before he died, doctors finally realized that Clive and much of the family had inherited Lynch syndrome. And, as he lay dying, said he Clive was determined to change the family's future. "He turned to me and said, 'I'm going to die, but you need to get yourself tested,'" Lynne remembers. "If you don't," he continued, "you could die of bowel cancer."

But knowing you should get tested for a gene that, given her history, would effectively sentence her to death is different than having the strength to get tested. At first, Fisher didn't want to know. She felt it was her "fate" to die of colon cancer.

"I thought it was best if you don't know and just get on with life," she says."Because life is worth living, not worth worrying all the time. There's a world outside. You have to live."

Her doctors insisted. And eventually, Fisher realized she must have the test -- so her sons would know if they had to worry.

Two of her other siblings took the test and came back negative. Which made her positive result all the more shocking.

"I was shaken," she says. "I was very numb. I couldn't think."

Her doctors encouraged her to have her colon removed, a surgery she feared and initially resisted. To this day, she says she believes she would not have gone through with it except for a vacation and a chance encounter with an abandoned dog.

Tempting 'Fate'

"My husband at the time, who was very supportive, said, 'Let's go to Turkey for 2 weeks and we'll talk about it in Turkey," she recalls.

While there, they stumbled on an abandoned puppy that had been beaten, his tail cut off and his skin burned by lit cigarette stubs. Fisher spent much of her vacation forgetting about her own issues and nursing the dog back to life.

"We brought the dog back to this country. We brought him home," she says. "And it dawned on me when I got back and the dog came back with us -- and he's a beautiful collie -- that I had just saved his life so that I needed to stay alive, to keep on looking after him."

Fisher found a second inspiration: she read that one of her idols had also contracted bowel cancer -- and had removed a portion of her bowel to fight it.

In 2003, Sharon Osbourne -- badgered by her husband Ozzy -- underwent a colonoscopy that revealed a very small cancer toward the bottom of her colon. After her surgery she had chemotherapy and has fully recovered, honored for her willingness to publicly discuss her illness and raise awareness for bowel cancer.

"I die my hair like her, I love that lady," Lynne says of Osbourne. "I thought, if she went through it -- I'll go through it."

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