Good thing Samantha Tench has always been proactive when it comes to her health. A family history of breast cancer prompted the Castle Hills resident to have annual mammograms at age 30 and undergo genetic testing looking for gene mutations last year at age 41. But she didn’t stop there taking the full panel of tests.
While no breast cancer issues were found, she did learn she had Lynch Syndrome, an inherited condition that raises the risk of colon, endometrial, pancreatic, stomach, and other cancers. That prompted her to schedule several preventative screenings, the last of which was a colonoscopy several years before non-Lynch recommendations.
That Jan. 7 test shockingly found a 4.6-centimeter mass in her colon and her doctors at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas gave her two options. One was to remove only the affected section and risk the cancer returning because of Lynch; the other to take out the entire large intestine. She chose the latter but delayed it a few weeks to take a planned trip to New York City with 9-year-old daughter Claire and friends after which she told Claire and son Timothy, 6.
On Jan. 26, surgeons connected her small intestine directly to her rectum and also removed her appendix after finding something there too. She had a full-body CT scan and had 68 lymph nodes taken out to check for other cancers. Fortunately, none were found. She returned home early to celebrate Claire’s birthday but became sick for several days and noticed severe bruising on her back and down her legs. She ended up back in the hospital with a blood clot in a vein going from the small intestine to her liver.
Though she doesn’t have the same energy as before, a large and helpful team of medical professionals and plenty of medications have helped make sure she does well otherwise.
“I’m comfortable talking about it,” she said. “This is my life now. I definitely have some lifestyle changes. My life is forever changed because I don’t have a colon.”
Luckily for her, she does not have to wear a colostomy bag.
“Who knew you could live a mostly normal life without a colon,” she said. “I certainly didn’t.”
The Vicksburg, Mississippi native graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2002 with a degree in public relations after which she worked for the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau for three years. She moved to Houston where she took a job in marketing with Whataburger and met her husband Tim. They relocated to Dallas in 2009 and married in 2010. They moved to their current home in Castle Hills in 2014.
Tench later worked as a field marketer for Pizza Hut and Cici’s Pizza and for the past three years has been an advertising agency ad executive. She also serves on the Castle Hills Parent-Teacher Association board of directors.
Her mom Anita was diagnosed in 2008 with an aggressive form of breast cancer called Triple Negative and died two years later at age 49.
“Looking back if my mom had not gotten breast cancer and died, I likely would not have had genetic testing and found out I had Lynch Syndrome,” she said. “I didn’t have any symptoms. I feel very fortunate and lucky but the way it happened is kind of an interesting back story because it’s a sad start to how we got here.
“If I wouldn’t have been proactive about my health, my cancer experience would look very different than it does today. Early detection can make the disease more of a nuisance than a life-altering experience.”
Sharing her experience on Facebook groups and elsewhere has prompted family and friends to take similar control of their health by getting tested and/or scheduling a colonoscopy.
“Colon cancer is one of the most treatable cancers. It becomes more of a nuisance if you catch it early. If I had waited we would be having a different conversation,” she said.
“Understand the signs – sometimes they are subtle or non-existent. Know your family medical history. Get tested early if you’re at risk. Take care of yourself and don’t put off regular or recommended screenings.”