Cedars-Sinai Blog

Colon Cancer Patient Lori Wants You to Learn from Her

Lori Barker encourages others to be proactive after her colon cancer diagnosis.

Three years ago, Lori Barker was like many Angelenos—focused more on her career than on self-care.

"I hadn't been going to the doctor on a regular basis, which I should have been," says Lori.

Suffering from bloating and weight gain at 52, Lori thought she was starting menopause. When her belly was finally so swollen she couldn't ignore it anymore, she ended up in the emergency room at Cedars-Sinai, where doctors discovered she had cancer.

"I didn't take care of myself because work was my priority."

"The wonderful, kick-butt Dr. Ilana Cass and her team came into the ER and told me I had a very large, malignant tumor that needed to be operated on right away," says Lori.

Because of the tumor's location in her abdomen and the symptoms she'd been having, it was unclear where the cancer was coming from. Doctors suspected it was ovarian cancer, but during surgery, Dr. Cass discovered Lori had metastatic colon cancer.

Despite a family history of other cancers, Lori hadn't been getting the recommended screenings.

"I didn't take care of myself because work was my priority," she says. "I had never had a colonoscopy, which you're supposed to start at 50."

The surgeons removed about 97% of the cancer; Lori requires ongoing chemotherapy for the remaining cancer.

"My reaction to getting diagnosed was so different than I thought it would be," Lori recalls. "It wasn't as negative as I expected. I've always been a positive person, and it's really affected how I handle my diagnosis and the treatments."

That positive spirit hasn't just influenced Lori's approach to her treatment. It's had an impact on her care team as well.

"Lori embraces her treatment plan and accepts both the good news and the bad news graciously," says her oncologist, Dr. Andrew Hendifar. "She is a fighter and is very proactive about her treatment."

These days, Lori's message is simple: Go to the doctor.

"Don't be afraid of getting a colonoscopy," she says. "If you have symptoms, go see a doctor. Better safe than sorry!"

Lori Barker with her Cedars-Sinai oncologist, Dr. Andrew Hendifar.