Erica, my thoughts are with you on this. When we found my tumor (stage 111 colo-rectal) it was due to major internal hemorrhaging as the tumor formed right over a major artery. I had exhibited no unusual symptoms, so we don’t know how long it had been growing. The only sign or anything was a little blood ‘back there’ which I chalked up to ‘roids, treated them and went on.
My time line from discovery to final surgery took 2 years and 5 months and involved an Ileostomy for 51 weeks before I had it reversed and got rid of the ostomy appliance.
Keep your spirits up and always think positive through all of this as it will help a great deal. There will be both good and bad days, but they pass. The chemo drugs I had were not unusually harsh on me. I did not go bald at all. The hair I lost was on my legs, and they are still smooth today (2 1/2 years) after my final surgery. It did make my finger and toenails brittle and that is getting better with supplements.
You can make it successfully. Search and read up on your chemo drugs and their effects on your body and ask your oncologists for every scrap of paper they have in the way of pamphlets and books and contact your local survivors group to see if they can put you in touch with someone who has gone through what you are facing now. The ACS is a wonderful organization and will try and help you in very many ways, use them and their resources to the max.
Please let us know how you are progressing and always remember, our thoughts are with you, always in this. Chin up and shoulders back, no matter what. Always think forward.