Kat was diagnosed with stage IV Colon Cancer at the young age of 40
Cheering Others on to Colonoscopies
By: Martha Helton
“Go.Fight.Win.”--seems like a cheer to yell in support of your team. In this case, it is…with Houston native Kat Harrington as both cheerleader and cheer receiver.
Her sparkly brown eyes and vivacious personality conceal a dark secret. Kat Harrington, 41 and a Joshua resident, discovered in July of 2010 that she had stage IV colon cancer.
“Yes, I was shocked. I thought only old people get colon cancer,” Kat shared. “I was at the prime of my life--young, healthy, fit, working as a realtor and mother of two wonderful daughters. “
Harrington became very fatigued and an OB check up revealed she was severely anemic and needed a blood transfusion. After a colonoscopy from a gastrointestinal doctor, Kat woke up to learn that she had a softball-sized cancerous tumor in her colon. Surgery immediately followed and a foot of her colon was removed. A few months later, she had colon and liver surgery (the cancer had spread to her liver) and began a series of 12 chemo treatments.
Harrington’s father passed away in 2002 from cancer (although not colon cancer) and Kat and her sister came up with the motto “Go.Fight.Win.” as a way to cheer their dad on in his cancer fight. This motto inspired Kat to create “Go.Fight.Win.” on Facebook (facebook.com/Go.Fight.Win.) to bring awareness of colon cancer, one of the most common cancers in the United States.
“I have decided to use it (G.F.W.) to make others aware that young, healthy people get colon cancer, too. It is a silent killer. Here is the kicker…they say it took my tumor 8-10 years to get the size that it was. This means I had colon cancer in my early 30s and never knew it,” Kat explained. “Because of this my daughters will have to start getting their colonoscopies at age 25.”
Unfortunately, most insurance companies do not usually pay for colonoscopies for people under 50 unless they have symptoms or a family history of colon cancer. Kat didn’t qualify by either stipulation.
When asked if she has experienced anger about her disease, Kat paused and said, “No, I haven’t gotten mad…haven’t let myself go there. It’s negative energy. I’ve been sad and disappointed it has to be me. And it’s scarey.”
Kat describes herself as a “realist”, facing life’s challenges head-on. She likes to research everything in order to be prepared, which she has done with colon cancer. However, cancer is very unpredictable. “I feel like cancer is the one in control.” Kat adds that she’s learned that God is in control, not her or the cancer. “I find an even pace—cancer is going to be there. It’s a fact.” So she’s learned to let go and know that medical help is there when needed and she just trusts the process.
Go.Fight.Win.’s presence on Facebook has gathered 1,279 “likes,” and Kat has seen some far-reaching effects of her testimony and campaign. Many have contacted her to report they have gotten their colonoscopies. “One lady in Croatia found my Facebook page and it helped her dad find some pre-cancerous areas through having a colonoscopy,” Kat marvels. Another girl Kat knew from high school was having stomach problems, read the G.F.W. Facebook page and Kat’s story and found a cancerous polyp in her colon. She wrote: “I truly think that you had a large part in saving my life. Had I not followed your story on Facebook I may not have had the colonoscopy done.”
Another benefit of Kat choosing to share her story, urging others to “Get your colonoscopies!” is she has been able to mentor others undergoing cancer struggles. Raised in a strict Christian home, Kat encourages others with her renewed faith and realistic, yet optimistic outlook. People have contacted her through her Facebook page as well as her personal sphere of influence to find a kindred spirit along with positive words of encouragement.
Faith in God has become an integral role in her positive outlook. “I cannot imagine going through cancer without God,” Kat says. Her surgery on July 6 to remove a cancer spot from her liver caused understandable nervousness as she chattered with the medical staff. She caught herself and chose instead to be quiet and trust herself to God. “People may think I’m crazy, but I felt Him holding my left hand.”
Her realistic outlook has caused her to be open and honest with her two daughters, ages 13 and 10, although it has been tough on them, shedding tears and experiencing school struggles. Kat’s husband and high school sweetheart, Doyle, has been her solid rock. He told her, “No matter what happens we’ll deal with it. You know I’d take it for you (the cancer) if I could.”
One day Kat would like to see G.F.W. become a nonprofit agency to promote colon cancer awareness. But for now “there’s things I can do with it because I’m creative and can network,” Kat explains. Facebook has been effective in getting the word out as well with some very creative ideas. One of Kat’s daughters noticed the “planking” craze that was happening on youtube.com. Planking is when someone lies face down rigidly with arms stretched to their sides in an unusual location. Photos are taken and downloaded online and people compete to achieve the most original location, like on top of vehicles, roofs, poles, etc. Doyle, Kat’s husband, decided to start planking to highlight “Go.Fight.Win.” by lying on top of their roof and posting the picture on Facebook. “It started about 20 posts daily from as far away as Canada,” says Kat. “It’s fun to create attention (for G.F.W.).”
On September 1, Kat had surgery to remove the right lobe of her liver because a third cancer spot was found in the right lobe. On the positive side, the liver is the largest organ in the body and the only one that regenerates itself, although Kat is in for a lengthy recovery. Log onto www.facebook.com/Go.Fight.Win. to read current information about Kat’s journey and mission.
Although there is no cure for Stage IV colon cancer, “God is on my side,” says Kat. “I have decided not to live in fear. I will just keep living right and helping others.” Kat is quick to add to everyone she meets: “Get your colonoscopies!”