I previously talked about how I ended up in Finland , but I had skipped over something shocking and terrible which happened as I was preparing to move.
In September of 2016, my wife, Sanni, felt ill. She was prescribed some antibiotics which initially seemed to help, but her symptoms kept fluctuating and her belly began to swell. Each visit to a nurse or doctor revealed nothing out of the ordinary. After nearly two months since she first felt sick, she started vomiting and was sent to the emergency room where the doctors discovered Sanni had a blockage in her large intestine. They ordered an emergency surgery.
Meanwhile, back in Maryland, I had no idea what was happening. I hadn’t heard from Sanni in a while and was worried, so I reached out to my in-laws who got me up to speed.
When Sanni woke up from the surgery, she called me and I had trouble believing what she was telling me. The surgeon had informed her that they removed a tumor from her colon the size of her fist and they believed it was cancerous. Sanni was 30-years-old at the time. How could she have had colorectal cancer?
Sanni was released from the hospital and continued her recovery from home, getting help from her family. I finally arrived in Finland soon after and tried my best to help as well while simultaneously trying to adjust to a new country. The surgery left a permanent 20 cm scar down the middle of Sanni’s abdomen. It was difficult to accept what had just happened and she struggled both mentally and physically, as were all of us. After months of consultations and further testing, Sanni was officially diagnosed with Lynch Syndrome.
Lynch Syndrome is an inherited genetic condition—affecting about 1 in every 300 people worldwide—which makes people more susceptible to certain types of cancer, including colorectal, endometrial, stomach, brain, uterine, and more. People with Lynch Syndrome may develop some form of cancer as early as their mid to late twenties and are more likely to develop multiple cancers in their lifetime. Many who have the condition are unaware.
It turns out that Sanni’s grandmother had also had cancer at a young age. There is a 50% chance of passing on the gene mutation to children. Others in Sanni’s family have now been tested and can plan accordingly with their doctor. Sanni has to have regular check-ups from now on to be sure no cancers are developing and our son will be tested when he turns eighteen. We try to remain optimistic, hoping for the best as we prepare for the worst.
March 22nd is Lynch Syndrome Awareness Day. If you or someone you know had cancer before the age of 50 or have a family history of cancer at a young age, talk to your doctor. Getting tested may be necessary to rule out Lynch Syndrome. If it is discovered that Lynch Syndrome does run in the family, then it could affect anyone in that genetic line.
For more information, please visit the Lynch Syndrome Research Group at www.lynchsyndrooma.fi . You may also feel free to reach out to me or Sanni at email@example.com.
Matt Bowen is an American living in Pori, Finland with his wife, Sanni, their son, Edvin, and their dog, Pipo. You can follow their journey on Matthew’s Facebook blog, My Life in Finland (www.facebook.com/MattinFinland/).