My Story

My name is Emily Ihrke Akerberg and back in March, 2010, I began experiencing upset stomachs, unusual cramping and sensations of being extremely full after eating a modest amount.  This was extremely rare for my iron-clad digestive system…up until this point, nothing upset it.  I knew something wasn’t right.  Having been blessed with phenomenal health up until this point, I didn’t even have a general practitioner that I could call.  After some co-worker referrals, I visited a local internist.  After a routine exam that revealed nothing alarming they requested a CT scan.  Two jugs of barium and 10 minutes later I was informed that everything was normal and left with a list of over the counter meds to help reduce the bloating/cramps/antacid, etc.

Fast-forward three months and the symptoms were still persisting.  One day in early June, 2010 I had some time in between meetings and decided to make an appointment with a gastroenterologist.  Later that week I was explaining my symptoms once again.  This time I left the office with a follow up appointment for a colonoscopy for the following week – oh joy.  Actually, as twisted as it sounds, I was actually looking forward to the procedure.  Not the actual procedure itself, rather the idea that this test could shed some more light on the pain and discomfort I was experiencing.  I actually hoped they would find something.  The last thing I wanted was for them to send me home saying everything looked normal – just like it had with the CT scan.  I knew something wasn’t right, and this was the opportunity to find out what it was.

Everyone I talked to said the preparation for the colonoscopy was the worst part of the entire procedure.  Having done plenty of natural detoxes and cleanses in the past, however, I wasn’t that phased by the Movi-prep.  The morning of the procedure was a bit strange; other than a trip to the ER for an acute case of poison ivy in junior high, I hadn’t been a hospital patient since birth!  Several nurses did a double-take at my chart, not understanding why this 28-year old in front of them was about to undergo a colonoscopy.  I joked with one of them saying I can’t wait to see what my new boob job looks like when I wake up!  Note to self: always keep your nurses in good spirits, they are important to have on your side : )

After a quick does of the ‘twilight’ anesthesia (apparently known for being one of Michael Jackson’s favorites), I was off in a deep sleep for what seemed like a good eight hours.  Upon waking, the first thing I noticed was a sheet of images that were sitting on the nurses table at the end of my bed.  Hmmm, do they take images of a healthy colon? Seemed like a waste of paper to me.  As I came to, the nurse indicated the doctor wanted to speak with Nick and I.  The look on his face said everything.  They had found a mass during the procedure – 10 cm from the anal opening.  It was large enough that they couldn’t even pass the scope through to complete the colonoscopy.  They had taken a biopsy of the mass and had sent it off for additional testing to find out if it was cancerous or not.  He was going to follow up with a phone call in 2 – 5 days.  Never before did I imagine what it was like waiting for a phone call to find out if I had cancer. During the next few days, I didn’t talk much about the procedure or what had been found…no sense in worrying everyone over a benign tumor.  Six days later the phone call came. The mass was malignant.

18 Responses to “My Story”

  1. stacey smith July 4, 2010 at 7:59 am #

    Emily, visiting your blog for the first time— I read every word. You’re incredible.
    As a physician, I hope none our our ilk disappoints, offends, slights, dismisses, rushes, embarrasses, (etc) you or nick. Good luck and Godspeed.

  2. Rob Pompi July 7, 2010 at 8:29 am #

    Emily,
    When I heard about what you are dealing with yesterday, I was surprised and sad. After reading this blog and remembering what a strong person you are, I realize that your opponent does not stand a chance in this fight.
    Love and prayers!

  3. Karen Moger July 9, 2010 at 5:00 pm #

    Hi Em
    I too share the tatoo experience. I have 6 of them. I have often been tempted to get a more fashionable one, but havn’t gone ahead with it as yet. Some day! Hang in there and you too will be sharing past experiences with a good outcome just like me.
    Aunt Karen

  4. Bonnie Hughey July 12, 2010 at 4:32 pm #

    Em I think you’re an incredible and couragious person! I absolutely love your spirit!

    Love and prayers to you and your family!

    Bonnie

  5. kathy anderson July 12, 2010 at 7:46 pm #

    Hi Em-

    I’m so sorry to hear the news. I don’t know if you heard, but exactly a year ago, I was diagnosed with stage 2 anal cancer. Although I’m 20-some years older than you…..it’s always a shock. I had no symptoms whatsoever, just a small bump on my perinium. And, it was right after Farrah Fawcett died from anal cancer. I was scared to death.

    My tumor was inoperable. 4 cm. So they did intense radiation and chemo. I kept a blog as well. It may help if you read it. You can sort by “oldest to newest” to see the whole journey. Go to http://www.caringbridge.com Click visit and enter KathyAnderson1 and your email address. I went to the Cancer Treatment Center of America, here in Phoenix.

    I want to tell you that while it was hell for three months, and I still have side effects….they shrank the tumor and I have been CANCER FREE for 8 months! Seriously! I still have to go every 3 months for tests, but I’m living proof they can kill it!

    You just need to stay positive! And fight! Even when you just want to stay in bed – get up and do something. Once you read my blog, if you’d like to talk, give me a buzz. 602-678-1007 is my work line.

    You may like to read http://www.blogforacure.com and click on colon cancer. It is a forum for patients to share their experiences. I learned more from other anal cancer patients than I sometimes did from the league of doctors treating me!

    I’m thinking of you even though we haven’t seen each other since the “big race” down the Strip! Have faith, be strong.
    HUGS, Kathy

  6. Danielle Long July 12, 2010 at 9:05 pm #

    Hi Em,
    I just wanted you to know that Erik, Nikki and I are thinking of you. We just learned of the news, we are sending our positive energy and prayers your way. Stay strong and remember you have a very large extended family here even if we don’t see you often. You can call on us anytime. Lots of love and hugs!

    Danielle & Erik and Nikki

  7. Nancy Ludemann July 13, 2010 at 9:44 am #

    Emily,
    I had dinner with your mom last night. After I left her, I sat in my car for probably 15-20 minutes and cried. I cried for you, I cried for her, I cried remembering my cancer, I cried because it could be Amber or Christy, too.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us and we will continue to read. Also know that you are in my prayers daily.

    Nancy

  8. Amber (Ludemann) Miller July 13, 2010 at 10:17 am #

    Emily~
    I know it has been a long time since we have really known each other, but I get updates about from my mom from time to time. I was shocked to get this news about you. I just wanted you to know that I think your drive and your fight are impressive and I wish you all the best! You are in my thoughts and prayers.

    Amber Ludemann Miller

  9. Heidi Dickerson July 13, 2010 at 6:52 pm #

    Em,
    You are in my thoughts and prayers as you go through all of this. I applaud you for sharing your story and thoughts with others…whether they know you personally or not you are an inspiration. Know we are all here for you.
    Heidi

  10. Amber Ludemann Miller January 28, 2011 at 6:10 am #

    Emily,
    Just wondering if you have looked at the natural supplement Bee Pollen. It sounds like it has a lot of wonderful natural healing benefits including some studies out of Europe and Asia that it reduces tumors, increases while blood cells and other cancer fighting benefits. See what your doctors have to say about it? Just thought of you when I was researching it.

    Amber Ludemann Miller

  11. stacey smith March 1, 2011 at 6:46 pm #

    Hi emily!
    Just read the latest post.
    We can’t come as we will be skiing with Rachel, Julian and Ben in Steamboat!
    We will be thinking of you and this incredible event,
    I’d like to make a donation.
    Can you send me a link?
    thinking of you both
    stacey
    PS. I didn’t know you ran a marathon!!

  12. Carol Boynton March 14, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    Emily…Erica Mundt gave me your info.I’m writing a story in your honor…please contact me ASAP. I want to get the story in the paper for next week’s paper in connection with the Fool’s Five. Thanks. Carol

  13. Paige October 12, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

    My dad had colo-rectal cancer when I was in 2nd grade, he was only 32 & I never really thought to look it up until now, even though I had a colonoscopy 2 years ago, at age 15. My dad has a colostomy bag, you never mention anything about one, if you don’t have one you are one lucky girl, if not that just makes you stronger. <3

    • eeihrke November 10, 2011 at 4:40 am #

      Hi Paige, thanks for sharing your story. I actually did have an ileostomy bag for seven months; finally had it reversed back in May. You can read about it here: https://colorectingcancer.wordpress.com/2010/11/. Thanks for the support and encouragement!

  14. stacey smith January 30, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

    Home-made card coming.
    Stacey

  15. Annie February 2, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    Love is coming to you from Minnesota! :)

  16. Jill February 3, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    Hi Emily –
    Here’s something to make you laugh:
    We were at the dinner table last night, talking with Hank about his “behavior modification plan” at school (don’t ask) and the approach which has slightly changed. We asked him to tell us about the new approach. His response: “You don’t need to deal with this. I’ll talk with Meredith (his teacher) about it. You shouldn’t get involved.” He said this with a dismissing gesture of his arm.
    How do you like that? Sure, we’ll just leave it in your capable 1st-grade hands.

    We love you!!!!

  17. Susan Lutes March 3, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

    Words simply cannot express the depth of sadness I feel for you all at having to say good-bye to your precious Emily. My strongest memories of her are as a young girl swimming in our backyard pool; babysitting my “little” Emily and Ian; playing Golden Valley summer softball; and attending Kyle’s sleepovers. She was always a very sweet, beautiful, and kind girl. Her life was way too short but she was, and continues to be, a bright, shining star! I’m sending you all gigantic, compassionate hugs and will hold you up in prayer during your time of unimaginable grief. May God’s grace and peace sustain you.
    –Susan Lutes

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