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In early 2020, Lindy Thackston began experiencing stomach cramps, blood in her stool and lower back pressure. The 40-year-old sought medical attention which resulted in doctors to order a colonoscopy to determine whether or not the Fox Morning News anchor had developed colitis.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, Thackston's screening was cancelled and rescheduled three times. When she finally had a colonoscopy performed, Thackston was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer.
“It’s just a weight on your shoulders that you can’t even put into words. It was so hard to look at my son because I was just wondering how much time I had with him,” Thackston sad in an interview with TODAY. “Right then, cancer became a full-time job.”
The mother-of-one has since decided to tell her to raise awareness, noting that COVID-19 caused delayed screenings for many patients who could have started their treatment sooner.
“The thing that's scary is that screenings dropped (about) 90% during the pandemic for colorectal cancer,” she said. “That means when people do get screened, there are going to be a lot of people who are stage 4.”
Thackston told TODAY that although her symptoms were concerning, she initially chalked them up to fatigue.
“I'm a morning show anchor. I get up at 2:30 in the morning. At the time, my son was 4. I also emceed for the Indiana Pacers. So I am doing games at night and it was really hard for me to tell if I was fatigued,” she explained. “We went on little family vacation last February and my husband made the comment, ‘I think you're way too tired. More than you should be.' And I got really offended because I thought, ‘Well, I get up at 2:30 in the morning.'”
Thackston said her doctor originally suspected she had colitis, a digestive disease. But after her CT scan showed “signs of inflammation," she was urged to schedule a colonoscopy.
“That got postponed three times because of COVID-19, but my doctor just kept insisting that I get one,” she said. "I credit her for saving my life because she kept pushing until she found someone who would give me one and he happened to be a colorectal cancer surgeon."
The cancer diagnosis was almost immediate once her colonoscopy was complete.
“When they were wheeling me out, I overheard a nurse say ‘tumour,’” Thackston said. “I turned to her and I said, ‘They found a tumour?’ And she said, ‘Yes.’”
Thackston subsequently met with her surgeon to discuss their plan of action. But after receiving 15 rounds of radiation, they realized that something was wrong. Thackston's stomach had become so distended she looked as though she was "nine months pregnant."
“I was in the hospital for 24 days and had emergency surgery, a bowel blockage, I lost three weeks of my memory,” she said told TODAY. “I was in and out of the ER all summer with bowel blockages.”
On June 30, 2020, she underwent surgery to remove the blockages — and was discharged by July 8. But less than a week later, Thackston was back in the hospital with tachycardia (rapid heart rate). Further complications caused her to lose 40 pounds.
It wasn't until late August that doctors deemed her strong enough to endure surgery, and have her tumour, 8.2 inches of her colon and 41 lymph nodes removed.
“I’m trying to do all I can to live,” she said. “It's funny. I was so scared I was going to get COVID and then I got cancer.”
Thackston was supposed to undergo 12 rounds of IV chemotherapy but had to stop at 10 due to side effects. As soon as she stopped chemotherapy she had to have her gallbladder removed.
“You have a whole year of doing nothing but fighting the cancer, then all of the sudden you are done. You have survivor’s guilt. I felt bad about ringing that bell and looking at everyone else still sitting there,” she told TODAY. “Why did I make it? I don’t know.”
Now, Thackston is on the mend and healing from the side effects of treatment. While she remains grateful for all the support she has received throughout her treatment, she revealed that her husband and son were her biggest inspiration to keep fighting.
“My husband literally did everything, everything around the house. He had to physically carry me to the vehicle,” she said. “He had alarms set all night so he could give me my medication. When you get a cancer diagnosis, the whole family does. It’s so important to take care of not just the patient, but also … the caregiver.”