City Councilor takes on colon cancer
May 24, 2006
Candy Erickson plans to take her place at the dais on Thursday, when the Park City Council next meets.
The agenda is typical for this time of year, with the elected officials heavy into City Hall’s annual budget season, but Erickson’s appearance will represent a victory for the second-term City Councilor.
She will sit with Mayor Dana Williams and the other members of the City Council less than two weeks after cancer surgery and a few weeks before she is scheduled to start a form of chemotherapy to treat colon cancer that doctors found during an exam on May 2.
Erickson, who is 50 years old and one of Park City’s most popular elected officials, was diagnosed with the cancer after a colonoscopy, which she suggests and experts advise people have when they are about 50 years old.
"The good news was, from what they saw, it did not look like a large mass," Erickson said on Monday.
After the May 2 appointment, Erickson the next day underwent a scan in which doctors injected her with a liquid that enabled them to find the tumor. She met with a surgeon on May 4 and had the 1 hour, 45 minute-operation on May 15 at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City.
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Doctors kept her hospitalized until May 20.
Erickson said the cancer had breached her lymph nodes but had not reached other organs.
She said that the surgery was made less difficult because she is slim and doctors did not have to cut through lots of fat to reach the colon.
"I knew what my options were as long as it hadn’t spread," she said.
Erickson expects to undergo a form of chemotherapy within four or six weeks. She said she does not anticipate becoming sick or losing her hair during the chemotherapy but said the treatment will be difficult.
"It’s still a toll on your body," Erickson said, adding that the surgery and the chemotherapy are "debilitating."
She said Kay Calvert, a former City Councilor who left office in early January, had encouraged the others to undergo a colonoscopy as a precaution. Erickson decided to do so and scheduled the procedure. Erickson said the colonoscopy was "a breeze."
Doctors during a colonoscopy are able to peer into the large intestine to look for signs of cancer and other medical problems.
"In the long run, it was so much easier than the surgery," Erickson said about her colonoscopy, which she said cost about $3,000.
The procedure looks for polyps in the colon, which is sometimes called the large intestine. According to the National Institutes of Health, the majority of the polyps are not cancerous but doctors take them all out for testing during a colonoscopy.
The National Institutes says on its Internet site that people are more likely to have polyps after 50 years old and if there is a history in the family.
People who eat lots of fatty food, who smoke, who drink alcohol, who are overweight and who do not exercise are also at greater risk, according to the Internet site.
Erickson said she will encourage people who are about the same age to undergo a colonoscopy but said she will not do so using her position as a City Councilor.
Her diagnosis influenced her husband, former Park City Planning Commissioner Bruce Erickson, to plan a colonoscopy, she said, adding that he did not consider the procedure before.
"Neither one of us had a primary physician," she said.
Mayor Dana Williams, who is 51 years old and has never had a colonoscopy, said this week that he plans to undergo the procedure within a few weeks.
"It just kind of was a wake-up call that it can hit anybody," Williams said about Erickson, who he describes as, "incredibly fit, very athletic."
More information about colon cancer, its treatment and its prevention is available on the National Institutes’ Internet site, http://www.nih.gov . Lots of details about cancers are available at the ‘Health Information’ link on the site.