A New Jersey nurse has gone viral after posting a video about the shock of her cancer diagnosis and urging others to get screenings of their own.
When mother-of-two Jennifer Waller went to visit her doctor complaining of abdominal pain, she thought she was just overtired from working two jobs.
The 32-year-old, from Clifton, was screened for a number of issues including breast cancer and hemorrhoids, but tests came back negative.
Her gastroenterologist suggested she undergo a colonoscopy in June, but she never dreamed she would be diagnosed with colon cancer.
"It was a complete shock because I can't have cancer. I mean, I'm a nurse. I take care of people. I tell you you have cancer, I treat you, but I can't have cancer, but yet here I am," she said in the video uploaded to Facebook.
Speaking to Daily Mail Online, Waller said that despite her initial fear and sadness, Waller said she's ready to fight - and to win - and that she's received messages from all over the world from people detailing their own cancer battles to a doctor saying he'd love to provide care for her.
Colon cancer is a cancer of the large intestine, which is the part of the digestive tract where the body removes water and salt from solid waste.
The cancer usually begins with growths called polyps. They are located on the innermost lining of the colon and become cancerous over many years.
A study published last year found that colon cancer cases diagnosed in adults younger than age 55 doubled from 1990 to 2013, although no one is sure why.
In response, the American Cancer Society updated its screening guidelines for colorectal cancer, now recommending people at average risk begin regular screenings at age 45.
'Here in the United States, you don't get screened until you are 50 years - that's 18 years from now,' Waller said in the video.
"According to my biopsy, I would be dead. And if I hadn't gone in and I hadn't been aware of my body, I would have been dead."
Signs and symptoms of the disease include a change in bowel movements, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain or sudden weight loss.
Treatment options currently include surgery to remove any tumours as well as chemotherapy and radiation to kill cancer cells.
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the US, among both men and women.
It is also the third leading cause of cancer deaths in both American men and women and is estimated to cause more than 50,000 deaths in 2018.
The five-year relative survival rate for those with stage I colon cancer is 92 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute's SEER database.
However, once the cancer has spread to other parts of the body such as the liver, it dramatically drops. The five-year relative survival rate for stage IV is about 12 percent.
Waller, who works two jobs and is a single mother to eight-year-old Landyn and three-year-old Harper Jeanne, said she began feeling abdominal pain in May and visited a doctor after she dropped 12 pounds in six months.
Because breast cancer runs in her family, she thought that might be the underlying health issue, but her test results came back negative.
Then, in June, she noticed blood when she went to the bathroom and her stomach pain persisted, so she visited her gastroenterologist.
She underwent a colonoscopy and said she knew something was wrong when she woke up in the Post Anesthesia Recovery Unit (PACU).
"The procedure normally lasts one hour but, when I woke up in the PACU, it was almost three hours later," she told Daily Mail Online.
"The doctor told me: 'If everything's good, I'll see you in a couple of weeks and, if not, I'll see you after the procedure.' So I asked the nurse if the doctor was coming to see me, and she said: 'Yes.'
"And my boyfriend, Omar, was next to me and I turned to him and said: 'I have cancer'."
The doctor told Waller that they found a large tumour and, in August, it was revealed to be a malignant tumour. While the cancer hasn't spread to her liver or lungs yet, Waller was told there was a high chance of it spreading to her lymph nodes.
"First you're shocked, then you're angry. Then you're a little sad because you think of kids, your future," she said.
Waller said she decided to make the video after realising that there was likely a lot of misinformation out there about colon cancer.
"Colon cancer is categorised as older man's disease but I'm a 32-year-old woman," she said.
"And if I'm a nurse and I had no idea you could get colon cancer this young, then probably a lot of other people don't know either. I need to be a positive voice and make people aware of this."
Waller posted the five-and-a-half minute video to her Facebook page on August 29.
"The day I posted I thought: 'I can sit here and tell nobody and get treatment or I can post this video and maybe a couple of people will watch and one person will go get screened," she said.
"I had no idea it would go viral."
So far, the video has garnered more than 22,000 views and it's been shared more than 200 times.
Waller said she's been touched by the reaction to the video.
"It has been so inspirational. I can't even explain it - the amount of love and support in strangers messaging me," she said.
"It sort of restores your faith in humanity. All these messages are overwhelming in a positive way. And in a time that should be a dark time, it's been eye-opening."
On Monday, Waller will undergo a colectomy, which removes part of the colon, and doctors will examine her lymph nodes to determine if she needs chemotherapy treatment.
Waller hopes that by people watching the video and reading her story, it reminds them to make their health a priority.
"We live in such a fast-paced world, where every day is a deadline and we are always rushing around," she said.
"We forget about ourselves but you need to take time for yourself. Because it's just a story you hear but you never think it will happen to you. I never thought in a million years I'd get diagnosed with colon cancer at 32."
Her colleagues have set up a GoFundMe page to help cover her medical expenses and to offset the days she will miss at work.
So far, US$7,400 had been raised out of a US$10,000 goal.