- Associated Press - Sunday, June 26, 2016

MOUNT AIRY, Md. (AP) - An incurable cancer has touched every part of 23-year-old Caitlyn Crawford’s life - her past, her present and her future.

Crawford, a Mount Airy resident, knows that she’ll have to have chemotherapy, every other week, for the rest of her life. The genetic mutation that’s caused her tumors has also convinced her not to have children.

She was 21 when she was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer, which had spread to her lungs and liver. She’s also developed stage one thyroid cancer.

Her genetic condition, familial adenomatous polyposis, means she develops benign polyps in her colon that gradually become cancerous.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the average age for an individual to develop colon cancer from that condition is 39 years old.

Crawford’s symptoms started as stomach ulcers and hemorrhoids, which seemed to get better as she switched to a low-fiber diet. But when she felt an intense pain in her liver area, her doctors sent her to the emergency room.

Crawford had polyps in her esophagus and her colon was “carpeted” with hundreds more, said her mother, Cathy Crawford. Caitlyn was finally diagnosed with the genetic condition last year.

Neither of Caitlyn’s parents have the condition.

“It started with me,” Caitlyn said, sitting on her living room couch with her mother. In another room, her dog Lucy whined, upset at being apart from Caitlyn.

Lucy and Caitlyn have spent a lot of time together since Caitlyn’s diagnosis. Her dog has been a “bright spot” in Caitlyn’s life, Cathy said.

When Caitlyn was growing up, there weren’t any warning signs that the cancer was developing.

“She danced her whole life,” Cathy said. “She never even seemed like she was sick.”

Caitlyn was part of a competitive dance group and had danced since she was 2 years old. After her diagnosis, she tried tap dancing, but she was fatigued from her treatment.

For now, she’s a Frederick Community College student, planning to finish her degree in social work this fall.

Caitlyn and her family are looking for clinical trials that might deem her eligible. Her thyroid cancer disqualified her from a University of Maryland trial, but she’s holding out hope for one at Georgetown University.

Her mother now emphasizes the importance of colonoscopies for detecting cancers early.

“We would never have known to check for this,” Cathy said.

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Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, https://www.fredericknewspost.com

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