Diagnosed in 2012 at 22 years old
Stage IIIc colon cancer
New Hope, MN
Twenty-two-year-old Kirsten Freiborg was a month away from graduation at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis when an appointment with a local gastroenterologist finally revealed the source of the bleeding she had been experiencing for over two years.
The New Hope, MN native had visited countless doctors during those years, looking for an explanation to the blood in her stool. She was continually misdiagnosed, and doctors never explored the source of the bleeding further given her young age. As a nurse, her mother knew it wasn’t normal, and encouraged Kirsten to continue seeking an explanation from doctors.
With no family history of colon cancer, her stage III diagnosis came as a complete shock to her, and a surprise to her doctors. At that time, she was the youngest patient they had seen diagnosed with this disease.
Kirsten was able to finish school and attend her graduation just two weeks after the surgery to remove the tumor from her colon. She spent the next six months undergoing chemotherapy treatments, and has had no evidence of disease in the four years since she finished treatment.
Kirsten now actively works to raise early onset colorectal cancer in people under the recommended screening age of 50 – including her position with the board of the Edina, MN-based Colon Cancer Coalition. Currently, 1 in 10 people diagnosed with this disease are under that age, and a recent study released by the American Cancer Society in February shows the rate is expected to grow in those born after 1990. Because they are below the recommended screening age, young people presenting with symptoms of colorectal cancer are often misdiagnosed because of their age.
By telling her story, Kirsten hopes that putting a young face to this disease will help people realize that it can happen to anyone, and the importance of not only knowing the symptoms, but advocating for your own health. She is a clear example that you are never too young for colorectal cancer.