A cancer diagnosis leads to urging of early colonoscopies

This summer, Katie Farrowe, 41, of Monticello was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The mother of three young children and a local business owner, Farrowe said the outpouring of support has been unbelievable. On Oct. 16, Farrowe had the tumor removed and is waiting to see about follow-up treatment. The Farrowe family from left is Katie holding Reed, Otillie, Finn, and Angus. (Photo submitted)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     “We are so thankful and grateful to so many people.”

     Those are the sentiments from Katie Farrowe before undergoing surgery that resulted in the removal of a foot and a half of her colon and part of her rectum in an effort to remove a cancerous tumor.

     On Aug. 13 Farrowe, 41, of Monticello, was diagnosed with well-differentiated adenocarcinoma in her rectum/sigmoid colon, also known as colorectal cancer.

     “That means the cancer is all together in one spot,” explained Farrowe.

     Since her diagnosis, the Monticello community has wrapped its arms around Farrowe and her young family. Now, close friends are planning a fundraiser to help offset medical costs and time away from work.

     Farrowe and Erin Cox are co-owners of The Jitney in downtown Monticello. Farrowe, whose maiden name is Chapman, grew up in Monticello and returned several years ago to start a business and raise her family in the town she loved as a kid herself.

     “I wouldn’t think of raising my kids anywhere else,” she said of the generous and welcoming community.

     It was early this year in January that Farrowe’s intuition got the best of her.

     “I know my body,” she said. “Things were just not right.”

     Farrowe detailed that there was more blood in her stool than what one might experience with hemorrhoids. She let the uneasy feeling go until April when the pain began to act up.

     “I was on a smoothie kick,” Farrowe said.

     That night Farrowe started experiencing pain in her stomach. Her first thought was perhaps the chia seeds she added to her smoothie.

     “It hurt every morning for an entire week,” she said. “I was doubled over in pain. There were a lot of trips to the bathroom. The seeds never bothered my stomach before, so I knew something wasn’t quite right.”

     Farrowe called a gastroenterologist in Cedar Rapids, Dr. Qiao, to seek some advice.

     In May, after her visits with Dr. Qiao, Farrowe admitted she started feeling a bit better. She said at her age, it wasn’t necessarily suggested to have a colonoscopy. Farrowe said typically those are scheduled after you turn 45.

     Having started a food-reset program, Farrowe had to put off a colonoscopy for a whole month.

     “I thought my issues were related to having celiac or it was certain foods I was eating,” she said. The food re-set required eating foods high in fiber “You’re not supposed to eat high-fiber foods before a colonoscopy.”

     At this time, she was also feeling run-down and tired more than usual, but attributed that to chasing three little kids and running a business.

     On Aug. 8, Farrowe went in for her colonoscopy at Jones Regional Medical Center in Anamosa and that’s when the tumor and polyp were found. Now, knowing it saved her life, Farrowe is an advocate for early colonoscopies.

     “They are 100 percent preventable,” she said.

     After hearing they found a tumor at the top of her rectum and sigmoid colon, Farrowe woke up the next morning thinking it was all a dream. “That’s not at all what I thought they’d find,” she said.

     That afternoon, Farrowe received a phone call from Dr. Qiao advising she come in with her family to discuss her treatment options.

     “I just started bawling,” she recalled.

     Having had one opinion from Dr. Qiao, Farrowe and her family sought a second opinion from specialists at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.

     A friend whose mom works at UIHC suggested Farrowe seek advice from a colorectal specialist.

     Farrowe met with Dr. Rupp, who ironically shared the same course of treatment as she was previously given. Her best option was to undergo surgery to have the cancer removed, no radiation and hold off on chemotherapy.

     “I was at peace then,” she said of hearing similar medical advice.

     On Oct. 16, Farrowe’s tumor was removed. It will be tested to determine what stage of cancer Farrowe had. Right now, experts say it could be stage 2, but Farrowe won’t know until her week-three check-up.

     In terms of why she decided to hold off on radiation, Farrowe said should the same cancer return, you cannot have radiation in the same spot twice. She would like the option to undergo radiation in that event.

     “Worst case, should the cancer come back, I could do radiation then,” she said.

     Farrowe surprised doctors in Iowa City and was kicked out of the hospital two days after her surgery, on Oct. 18. She was expected to stay for three to five days.

     “I can’t thank everyone enough for all your positive thoughts and prayers,” Farrowe expressed on her Facebook page. “They certainly worked as they kicked me out of the hospital for doing so well. They said there was nothing they could do for me that I couldn’t do at home.”

     Farrowe said while she waited so long to know exactly what was going on, she can breathe a sigh of relief to have the tumor gone.

     “It’s been hard for my mind to process it all,” she said of the whirlwind past several months. “I still can’t believe it.”

     Farrowe’s husband, Angus, and her immediate family and close friends have been by her side since she found out the devastating news.

     “I always put everyone else and our business first,” she said. Farrowe said it isn’t like her to allow or expect others to go out of their way for her.

     To cope with the news, she turned to humor, joking about her situation. “It helps me. While I know this is serious, joking about it is a relief for me. It helps me to be funny.”

     Farrowe said while this form of cancer can be awkward for people to talk about it needs to be shared. “You need to be checked because had I not had a colonoscopy, this could have been much worse,” she urged.

     While other forms of cancer can be seen in Farrowe’s family line, she is the first with colorectal cancer.

     “I have no idea what led to it,” she said. “There’s no way to know.”

     She said that her doctors shared how rare it is for someone her age to be diagnosed with this type of cancer. “They said it’s happening more and more,” said Farrowe. “That’s why they need to move the age for colonoscopies.”

     Farrowe will be taking some much-needed time off from her role at The Jitney to heal and rest and get used to “a new normal,” as she calls it. To help the family, loyal Jitney fan and musical talent Pam Foley reached out and started planning a fun-filled afternoon.

     A fundraiser is set for Sunday, Oct. 28 from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at The Jitney (126 E. First St., Monticello).

     “I wanted to help in some way,” Foley said, “to help defray the financial burden of this illness.”

     There will be a suggested donation of $10 at the door. Brats, burgers and pork burgers will be grilled throughout the afternoon for a free-will offering. There will be various raffle prizes (need not be present to win) and 50/50 drawings throughout the day as well. Foley said so many generous people have reached out to donate the food.

     “Being as The Jitney is Katie’s business and host to other community benefits in the past, it just made sense to have it at The Jitney,” said Foley. “To me it’s home and how everyone knows you.”

     To top it all off, several local musical acts are slated to perform, all of Farrowe’s favorites: Ron LaFleur and Dakota McWortor, Adam Griffin, Eric Douglas, Patchy Fog, and Farrowe’s family, the band Crosscut. Foley said when reaching out to the performers, all were more than willing to donate their time in honor of Farrowe. 

     In addition, 10 percent of all Jitney bar sales will be donated to Farrowe as well.

     For those unable to attend, a fund has been set up at F&M Bank in Monticello, the “Katie Farrowe Benefit Fund.”

     “I don’t know how to begin to thank everyone,” Farrowe said. “This means the world and fills my heart with love. It’s very overwhelming.”



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