CLEVELAND, OH – It was a family vacation to remember and Annie Schreiber was praying it wouldn’t be their last.
Just one month after this picture was taken, the 36-year old began seeing signs of trouble.
Schreiber said, "I had symptoms of a hemorrhoid or hemorrhoids. I had blood in my stool and changes in bowel habits."
Schreiber’s family doctor told her to eat more fiber and drink more water.
But when the symptoms persisted, she was referred to a gastroenterologist.
With no pre-existing factors, Annie put off getting a diagnostic colonoscopy for several weeks.
That is, until she read an article, and was shocked to learn that a surprising number of people between the ages of 20-to-50 were being diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer - and dying.
She says the article probably saved her life, because her colonoscopy results revealed, she too, had cancer.
"It's surreal when somebody tells you that. I think it's surreal no matter how old you are. But it was so surreal, given this stage of my life. And I just kept thinking how young my kids were,” said Schreiber.
The mother of an 8, 6 and 3-year old traveled from Lafayette, Indiana to Ohio for surgery.
But instead of the more traditional approach, where colon cancer patients are required to use a colostomy bag for the rest of their lives, Doctor Scott Steele, Chairman of the Department of Colorectal Surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, decided on a new, minimally invasive surgical technique.
Dr. Steele said, "So this is called a transanal total mesorectal excision, or shorthand, we call it the TaTME procedure, and essentially it's combining a laparoscopic procedure using small incisions with the use of cameras to take out the rectum and surrounding tissues."
Annie had the surgery last November and is now cancer-free.
She and her doctor conduct visual checkups regularly and her prognosis is excellent.
She is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments, but is living life to the fullest, knowing she and her husband will be able to continue to raise their three children together.
"I'm eternally grateful for their professionalism, their compassion and their skill just ultimately altered the course of my life."
March is colorectal cancer awareness month.