“Love yourself and your body first”
As a newly minted director overseeing African American community development at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Sheila Jones is used to being busy. The former music teacher loves making music and people the focus of her life, but something was wrong.
“Over the years, I started feeling pain that felt like I was being stabbed in the stomach,” Sheila says.
As her abdominal pain worsened and she began to lose her appetite, Sheila decided it was time to figure out what was going on. In July, she made an appointment to see her primary care physician, who examined her and immediately referred her to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago for an emergency colonoscopy.
That same day, Sheila was diagnosed with stage three malignant colorectal cancer and underwent emergency surgery to remove a tumor that was obstructing her colon.
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. (excluding skin cancers), with African American communities at even higher risk of developing colorectal cancer. A contributing factor is inadequate access to health care services.
“Screening colonoscopies are a life-saving preventative tool that we encourage everyone to get starting at age 50,” says Dr. Jan P. Kaminski, a colorectal surgeon at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. “Here at Advocate Illinois Masonic, we are committed to providing easy and convenient access to screenings for various types of cancer, including colorectal cancer.”
While Sheila is still undergoing chemotherapy and getting used to her new ostomy bag — a new feature that she is proud of — she is on track to complete her cancer journey and begin life pain-free as a cancer survivor in the New Year.
“This journey forced me to learn to love and respect my body. Now, I’m doing really well. New job, new body, new life,” Sheila says. “My message to the world is to love yourself and love your body first. Fall in love with it, and don’t think of it as a burden.”
Take our Colorectal Health Assessment to determine your estimated lifetime risk and whether an evaluation is recommended for you.
About the Author
Jaimie Oh, health enews contributor, is the manager of public affairs and marketing at Illinois Masonic in Chicago. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has nearly a decade of experience working in publishing, strategic communications and marketing. Outside of work, Jaimie trains for marathons with the goal of running 50 races before she turns 50 years old.