This week’s Story of Hope features Michelle Insco. She is a true fighter and an inspiration to us all that anything is possible and to never give up hope.
On June 29, 2012 I was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 42. Two weeks later I had colon resection surgery to remove the tumor. The results of the surgery were excellent – we caught this early and the tumor was T2N0 – Stage I colon cancer. No further treatment needed. Follow up scans a few weeks post surgery changed my life dramatically as eight tumors were found scattered throughout my lungs. My Stage 1 diagnosis quickly changed to Stage 4, metastatic colon cancer. We met with Dr. Tan, our wonderful oncologist at Siteman Cancer Center, and started chemotherapy immediately. We followed various courses of chemo treatments with many ups and downs until early in 2014, when we made the decision to have the cancer surgically removed from my lungs. Doctors in St. Louis did not advocate for this very difficult surgery, but we met a wonderful surgeon at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, AZ who agreed with us and our medical team that the surgery was worth a shot. On February 12, 2014, Dr. Lanza at Mayo Clinic removed ten wedges of my lungs to get rid of the eight tumors which were confirmed through pathology to be colon cancer. I spent eight days in the hospital and another three weeks in Phoenix recovering before being able to fly home to St. Louis. Surgery and recovery were hard, but we know this was the right decision for me. About six weeks post-surgery, we resumed chemo treatments which continue today. There are currently four very small tumors in my left lungs which we are holding stable with the chemo treatments. We may opt to do one more surgery with Dr. Lanza to remove these tumors, but that is yet to be determined. I just finished my 57th chemo treatment. I have learned that battling cancer is a marathon, not a race, and that it is important to take everything one step at a time. Tomorrow I celebrate my 45th birthday, and I know that I am incredibly lucky to have an amazing and wonderful life!
Throughout this journey, I have found it to be incredibly important for me to continue to lead a “normal” life. I am very happily married with two active boys and our family life remains very busy and filled with baseball, soccer, basketball and music. I have a job that I love and I take pride in the fact that I have not missed a day of work since I was diagnosed, outside of planned vacation days, treatment days and time off for my surgeries. I am responsible for all of the U.S. giving programs for Monsanto Fund, the philanthropic arm of Monsanto Company, and I work hard to give my all to the people in need who benefit from the grant dollars that we give away every day. I am honored to be of service to so many people, and every day I can see the positive impact that our programs have across America. My team is incredibly supportive, and they bring me strength, joy and laughter every day. I am very lucky! Another source of strength is my focus on fitness. I work out 5-6 days a week and I do this no matter how my body is feeling (and believe me, some days that is tough!). I believe that my workouts in the gym and sweating it out at boot camp make me strong in both body and mind. My advice to anyone battling a disease like cancer is simple – stay positive, rely on your community of support (whatever it looks like) and exercise, exercise, exercise! I am incredibly lucky as I have a huge network of support to help me through this journey. My husband, Jeff, and my boys, Ryan (age 13) and Andrew (age 12) have been with me every step of the way. They are absolutely amazing! Our parents, siblings, friends, and colleagues are a huge source of support every single day. Their encouragement and love for our entire family is amazing to see!
It was an honor to be nominated by the Siteman team and to receive a Powered by Hope medal. Receiving this award is a reminder that being strong and fighting this terrible disease is worth every ounce of energy that I have, but also a reminder that I am not in this battle alone. The medal hangs in my office on a picture of me as Wonder Woman which my team at work gave me and both Wonder Woman and my Powered by Hope medal remind me daily that I am strong and that I am surrounded by an awesome team supporting me in this battle. Teri and the Powered by Hope team are a huge source of inspiration for all of us on this journey!