AVON, Ohio - It was one of the happiest times of her life.
But just six months after giving birth to her daughter Isabella last year, Clarissa Sobolewski knew something was terribly wrong.
“I was moved by God to talk about polyps because my parents had polyps at 50. And doctors were like, 'We really don't test for that until 50,'" she said.
Just 41 years old, the married mother of three was younger than the recommended age by the American Cancer Society to get a colonoscopy. But she persisted, and her fears were validated: she had stage 1 colon cancer.
“And I was perfectly fine with anything happening, because everybody already lived their life with me, but my daughter was the only one who had not. So my pain really came with her," Sobolewski said.
Colorectal cancer symptoms depend on the size and location of the cancer. Symptoms may include changes in bowel habits, stomach discomfort and blood in the stool.
"She had recently had a child, and soon after that, she developed rectal bleeding. And a common story in females after having a child in delivery with bleeding is that it's from hemorrhoids," said Dr. Bradley J. Champagne, Sobolewski’s surgeon.
The Cleveland Clinic physician said Sobolewski was among the small percent of people diagnosed with colon cancer at an early age. The surgery to remove the cancer was a success, no chemotherapy required.
"When the tumor is limited to the wall itself and has not penetrated to or got into the lymph nodes, it's rare that we give chemotherapy," Champagne said.
Sobolewski, now a stay-at-home mom, has some advice: listen to your body.
She said, "It comes down to that, you know, it's like do you feel like you need to get tested for something or are you gonna ignore your feeling?"
The American Cancer Society now says colon cancer screenings should begin at 45, but other agencies still recommend colonoscopy screenings at age 50.
Doctors stress colon cancer is not a death sentence if caught early, with survival rates as high as 95 percent.