TODAY

TODAY   |  March 14, 2013

Endurance-sport athlete shares battle with cancer

At the age of 48, Teri Griege was accomplishing physical feats that women half her age would struggle to achieve, including triathlons and marathons. But then the mother of two discovered she had colon cancer. Griege, Colon Cancer Alliance Volunteer and Gloria Borges, CEO of The Wunder Project, sit down to talk about how early cancer detection can save your life.

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>>> time for today's health. information that could save your life. if you haven't heard, march is colorectal cancer awareness months. the cancer that's preventible and treatable when it's caught early.

>> that's the message from two amazing women who are living with the disease. we'll speak to them in a moment, but first, their stories.

>> in 2009 , 48-year-old terry agreeing was the picture of health , accomplishing things women half her age could not, but a colon os copy revealed the mother of two had stage 4 colorectal cancer .

>> i can't think of anything more difficult to do than to tell your children that you've been diagnosed with cancer.

>> after surgery and while receiving chemotherapy, she continued to pursue her dream and in 2011 , finished the ironman world championship . attorney gloria borgess was 28 and ready to conquer the world when she was diagnosed.

>> i thought i had a bad case of food poisoning , i had stage 4 colon cancer . by all accounts i wouldn't live to see my 30th birthday. she's done that and more launching her foundation, wonder glow, with the goal of funding cutting-edge cancer research .

>> every day i am defying the odds, every day i am beating cancer.

>> how inspiring are these two? terry greeg is a volunteer with the colon cancer awareness and the chairman of the wonder glow foundation.

>> and dr. is the director of gast gastr gastroenterology.

>> i've been very fortunate, i feel for the most part wonderful. i have some weeks when i'm going still through treatment that are a little rough. but i continue to train and run marathons and do half ironmans and hopefully another ironman in the fall.

>> that's unbelievable, if you don't mind my saying. it's incredible.

>> thank you.

>> and you were just 28, how are you doing?

>> doing well. i just finished my 46th round of chemo on monday and flew here on tuesday. but i'm doing well, running the foundation and working out. lifting weights, playing basketball.

>> and the doctor, we have to ask this. we know that the guideline is the age of 50 to start getting your colonoscopies. and a lot of people are terrified of them. but the truth is, the thought of them is much worse than the actual treatment. the preparation is the bad part and that's nothing. but if it's caught early, it's so easy to cure.

>> yes.

>> and these ladies, they were caught quite late. and they're doing so well it seems, are we making huge strides now?

>> tremendous hope with this disease. the first point is as you say, don't wait until you get symptoms, when you're well is the time to talk to your doctor about screening and prevention. colon cancer is one of the most preventible and curable of all cancers that we know of. the earlier we catch it, the greater the chance of curing it.

>> when you got diagnosed and learned about it you spoke to some of your family members and we have your sister is over there. and tell us what happened when you talked to your sisters when they got checked.

>> i was 48 at the time and screening is at 50 and my sisters were over 50 and had never been screened. immediately after i was diagnosed. they went and had colonoscopies, my one sister had precancerous polyps and my other sister was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer . this was all within two weeks of my diagnosis.

>> so it's familial then in this sense, it's genetic?

>> exactly. there's about a 20% to 30% chance of it being spread from a family member. so you have a family history of colon cancer , young people in the family with colon cancer , sometimes uterine or ovarian cancer can be related. polyps or colon cancer is a family issue.

>> you are so young. did you have, what symptoms if any did you have?

>> i had plenty of symptoms, because i was so young. i think people sort of wrote them off, including myself.

>> so i went to the bathroom frequently and they weren't impressive performances.

>> you had a lot of diarrhea.

>> i felt myself bloated at night, things like that it didn't stop me, i was working 14-hour days and working out. and when things got to really severe point i thought i had food poisoning , i couldn't keep anything down. even in the hospital, it took six days for me to get a colonoscopy and that's when they found the massive tumor in my colon.

>> did you have bleeding?

>> no.

>> so it's not always bleeding.

>> no.

>> actually the symptoms can be very, someone could just feel tired and have anemia as a presenting form.

>> and 50 is a magic number . just like with breast cancer screenings, they say wait until you're a certain age there are people who are exceptions to this?

>> absolutely. if there's a family history . the key is not to make the decision yourself. but talk to your doctor about it.

>> any bowel disease, my sister had acute colitis, the more you talk about it and get it out in the open. it's nothing to be ashamed of. but bowel issues are called the silent diseases. nobody wants to talk about them. if you don't talk about them, you can't fix them.

>> you guys are amazing.

>> thank you for coming in.

>> and thank you, doctor.