Posts Tagged ‘colorectal cancer patient’

Coping with Colorectal Cancer: A Parent’s Perspective

naomi ziva unicorn costumeAccording to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women. Parents and guardians are never fully prepared to hear news that their child has a life-threatening illness like colorectal cancer.


Hal and Miriam Schmerer know this situation all too well as their daughter, Naomi Ziva, was diagnosed with Stage 4 colorectal cancer at the age of 43.

“Naomi has always been an independent go-getter, so when she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, it was hard for her to give up some of that independence and come back home,” says Hal Schmerer.

In 2016, Naomi was on a family vacation in Europe when she started having serious abdominal pain. When she arrived back to the U.S., her parents say she drove herself to the emergency room where doctors diagnosed her with Stage 4 colorectal cancer. The cancer spread from her colon to her liver, lungs, and partially to her spine.


naomi ziva grinch costumeAfter being diagnosed, Naomi was determined that if she had to undergo chemotherapy she was going to try to take the drudgery out of it and insert some fun. Naomi was known at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in Johns Creek for dressing up in costumes with her friend Jennifer at every infusion appointment. Her family says she wanted to bring some joy to others fighting cancer.

Hal says his daughter’s positivity helped draw in other patients and momentarily take their mind off of the pain they were experiencing.

“We heard that a patient told one of the nurses to schedule them for chemo whenever the ‘woman who wears the costumes’ comes, too,” says Miriam Schmerer.

Naomi’s family says they’re thankful for the care from physicians, like Winship medical oncologist Bassel El Rayes, MD, and the nurses at Winship who helped her get through some very dark days.

During one hospital stay, Naomi suffered incredible pain from chemotherapy affecting her kidneys.

“She was unable to get more pain medicine for a while because of her condition,” says Hal. “One of the Winship nurses, Alex Howze, sat with her while we went to get dinner, he held her hand and talked with her until she felt better.”

After a hard-fought battle with cancer, Naomi passed away in March 2018. Her family credits the staff at Winship, the community, and their family and friends for constant support during this devastating time.


“Our neighbors were generous enough to raise $6,000 for Naomi’s medical expenses,” says Hal. “We’re so thankful for our synagogue, neighbors and Naomi’s friends who helped support us by cooking meals, organizing her belongings and spending time with us.”

Naomi’s parents offer advice below for parents or caregivers of adults fighting cancer:

  • Never give up hope.
  • Prepare to deal with high and low points, including challenges of insurance companies and bad days your child will experience.
  • Try to reduce your own anxiety and depression.
  • Take care of yourself; eat right and get your rest.
  • Find a support group of other parents and caregivers.
  • Offer guidance and wisdom, but allow your child to make their own health care decisions.
  • Find a way to continue your child’s legacy.

Naomi’s parents compiled all of her photos, blogs and poetry about her cancer journey into a book called Waiting for the Next Blue Sky. They say this project helped them cope but also keep their daughter’s spirit alive.

“I want the world to remember that Naomi loved to encourage others,” says Hal. “Cancer didn’t define her; it gave her a new outlook and understanding on life to cherish each moment.”

Learn More

Talk to your primary care physician about your risk of colorectal cancer and to determine if you should schedule a colonoscopy. At Winship Cancer Institute, we’re committed to advancing the standard of care for all our patients, including those diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer. Learn more about our colorectal cancer treatment program or schedule an appointment with our gastrointestinal specialists by calling (404) 778-1900.

Talk to Our Nurses

Emory HealthConnection is where registered nurses can help you find a location or specialist that’s right for you. Call 404-778-7777 from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST (M-F).

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Seeing over 17,000 patients a year, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is Georgia’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and serves as the coordinating center for cancer research, education and care throughout Emory University.


With a Little Help from Friends

lex gilbert cancer survivorI always assumed that cancer would catch up with me one day. After all, my mother and two of my aunts had breast cancer so I figured I must be next in line. Yet it never occurred to me that the rectal bleeding I’d been experiencing could be colon cancer. Surely the sigmoidoscopy ordered by my doctor would lead me to a quick fix and that would be that. Surprise! When I woke up after the procedure, she came to my bedside and told me I had colon cancer.

When I heard those words I went numb. The world looked as it might if viewed through a funhouse mirror. I remember someone standing nearby handing me a box of Kleenex. I didn’t need the Kleenex. I didn’t cry until many weeks later and boy did I need Kleenex then. I think my soul just closed up shop so it could absorb the gravity of my situation at its own pace, and when it was ready to let go of the emotions, it let go.

Believe me, I am not one of those survivors who talk about what a gift it was to have cancer! I certainly would have preferred to learn the lessons taught by cancer in a less painful way, but all things being equal, there were important lessons learned and I think they are clearly worth passing along. Here’s one.

I pride myself on being self-sufficient and independent. One of the most difficult aspects of being a patient was accepting help from friends. When they offered, I’d say that we didn’t need anything even though that was utterly and completely false. Husbands come in handy sometimes and mine immediately jumped on my reluctance to let folks “in.” At the same time, a dear friend and colleague set up an on-line calendar where I could post what I needed and friends could sign up to help. I could ask for someone to buy me groceries on Wednesday, or help me get the house in order on Saturday, or mow the lawn, drive me to an appointment, or just plain keep me company.

The overwhelming response to the calendar and the ensuing discussions made me realize that when people offer help, they want to help! What a revelation! Too many of us deny our friends the satisfaction and fulfillment that helping someone in need gives them. Allowing folks to help also brings them into our lives in a deeper way, resulting in even more satisfying friendships. The Jedi mind-trick is that letting people help is a gift to them, as well as a gift to you.

About Lex Gilbert

Lex Gilbert is a cancer survivor and very active volunteer with Winship Cancer Institute. She originally comes from southern California, where she ran her own marketing and promotions company serving major corporate clients from throughout the U.S. She has been a life-long volunteer and was awarded “top volunteer” by the County of San Diego for her work mentoring a child in foster care. She moved to Atlanta in 2007 and now works in the Office of Health Promotion at Emory. She was awarded the CLASS Distinguished Service Honor in the Division of Campus Life. Bruce Gilbert, her husband of 32 years, is a musician fighting Parkinson’s disease and also volunteers at Winship as a pianist.

Related Resources

Colon Cancer Chat Transcript

An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part I: Risk Factors, Symptoms & Diagnosis

An Intro to Colorectal Cancer Part II: Prevention, Diagnosis & Treatment

Winship Cancer Institute – Colon Cancer Resources

Find a primary physician through our Emory Healthcare Network or call Health Connection at 404-778-7777 to learn more from a registered nurse.