Julissa Catalan realized something was wrong with her sister when they went for a jog and Emma had to stop at a fast food bathroom. The moment she stepped outside again, there was blood covering Emma's pants.
“… when Emma came out of the restroom the back of her pants was soaked in blood,” Julissa wrote in a piece for Prevention.com. “There was no hiding it anymore.”
After the bathroom incident, Emma went to see the doctor, but they mistakenly assumed she had colitis. When the symptoms became too much to handle, she finally got a colonoscopy that would expose the truth.
In 2005, Emma was diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer and given six months to live, according to Independent Journal Review.
“Wouldn’t most of us ignore a little increase in belching and diarrhea, assuming we just overate or have food sensitivities?” Julissa asked. “We might attribute fatigue to a bad night’s sleep and treat it with some coffee. We could assume PMS is causing the bloating and cramping, and maybe, like my sister, be too embarrassed to acknowledge the blood each time we went to the bathroom.”
Unfortunately, Emma ignored the signs – which began two years before her diagnosis – and refused to see a specialist because she didn’t have health insurance. Those symptoms included: bloody stool, cramping, diarrhea, fatigue, frequent burping, and a swollen stomach.
“The bleeding should have been a red flag for the doctors, and she should have gotten a colonoscopy, but she didn’t,” wrote Julissa.
“Colonoscopies are typically reserved for those over 50 years old or people with a family history. Before my sister, we didn’t have a family history of colon cancer. Her symptoms were the same as so many other illnesses so I think it was easier to not go the extra step,” Julissa writes.
As soon as Emma was diagnosed with Colon cancer, she changed her lifestyle and started eating healthy and exercising regularly. Her sister was able to live another five years.
Emma died from the disease in 2010.
“Even if I don’t have health insurance or am tight on money, if something doesn’t feel right, I just throw it on a credit card,” Julissa says. “I would rather owe money but have peace of mind.”