Cindy Lou Barraza is on a journey to promote colon cancer screenings.
March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Cindy Lou Barraza, pictured with her puppy Devon, is on a journey to promote colonoscopies at age 50.
Tulsa children’s author Cindy Lou Barraza is best known for enlightening young people about diversity through her educational book, “Mexiroo.”
But nearly three years ago, she found another issue worth discussing: colon cancer.
In her mid-50s, Barraza fell victim to the disease and blames it on her failure to have a recommended routine test for the 50-plus set — a colonoscopy. Now, she’s on a journey to promote the importance of the procedure by sharing her story.
“My oncologist made it clear that if I had had a colonoscopy at age 50, it (cancer) would have been caught as a polyp, removed and never made it to the cancer stage,” Barraza says. “I made every excuse in the book and if I can be an advocate to other people to get colonoscopies, I’ll feel like my job on earth is fulfilled.”
Most insurance carriers consider a colonoscopy a wellness exam at age 50.
Her first symptom was pain in her right abdomen near the appendix. “That’s where the tumor was growing, and it was pushing on the appendix,” Barraza says.
In August 2014, over a period of one or two weeks, the pain became more intense. Her doctor did a scan, scheduled an appendectomy, and after realizing that it was a tumor, removed it that month.
“I was in the hospital six days and the day I was released, the doctor told me I had colon cancer and referred me to an oncologist,” she says.
She began chemotherapy in November 2014, and finished in April 2015. A colonoscopy followed to make sure everything was clear.
“I always wonder if the cancer has come back or when it will come back,” she says. “I do not take anything for granted, and I am so grateful to be here.”
Colon cancer works silently and is the No. 2 leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women in the United States, with lung cancer being No. 1, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
March 25 — Get Your Rear in Gear Tulsa
6:30 a.m., registration; 7:45 a.m., kids’ fun run; 8 a.m., 10K and 5K; 10 a.m., awards and closing ceremony. Guthrie Green, 111 E. M.B. Brady St. $25-$35, entry fee before March 22; $25-$40, after March 23. Benefits Colon Cancer Coalition. Visit facebook.com/getyourrearingeartulsa.