LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Louisville nurse spent 20 years helping people with cancer. Now, she is facing a diagnosis of her own.
After more than two decades of being a warrior for others at the UofL Health Brown Cancer Center, nurse Dana Lee has been fighting her own battle with colon cancer for three years.
"I don't have a family history. I wasn't having any symptoms. I was in the best shape of my life," Lee said.
Just a few months after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, she turned 50 and was due for a colonoscopy.
"They said, you know, we found something, that just kind of pretty much knew right away, but I was kind of hopeful because it was my screening colonoscopy that maybe it was found at an early stage" she said.
It was stage 3 Colon cancer.
Lee is a single mom to her son Anthony and daughter Morgan. As the family's protector, it was tough to reveal the diagnosis.
"I mean, you know we had to sit down have a good cry and talk it over, and so when they see me out doing things that I enjoy, they just you know, I think that really helps," Lee said.
By 2022 the cancer had spread to her ovary and liver -- moving Lee into stage four cancer.
"It does take a toll and not only physically but mentally." Even with the progression of the cancer, Lee continues to show up to work full-time as a lung cancer nurse navigator.
Lee's co-worker and friend became her oncologist.
"She's a warrior in the truest sense," said Dr. Rebecca Redman, a medical oncologist. "I think that's a testament to Dana"
Dr. Redman said it's in Lee's nature to keep working. "In fact, sometimes it's a challenge to get her to sort of focus on herself."
Outside of the hospital, Lee is spending precious time with her family, 'climbing for a cure' and speaking out about the importance of colon cancer screenings.
"She's been a tremendous advocate, someone who is very private to kind of stepping outside of that comfort zone to share her story, I think has been really brave and courageous," Redman said. "I think that's huge and she's already making a huge impact."
In 2021, the recommended age for colon screenings went from 50 to 45 years old.
Lee believes if she had been screened at 45, things may have been different for her. Most insurance companies cover screenings at no cost over 45.
"I really feel pretty good. I mean, I feel I think the the biggest thing for me is just to keep moving and keep going," Lee said.
UofL Health offers screenings for various types of cancer. To schedule an appointment call 502-210-4497.
Copyright 2023 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.