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Healthy You

Don't Ignore the Signs: Susan Ripka's Lifesaving Colonoscopy

Wednesday, March 30, 2016 2:13 PM

Susan Ripka, a busy mother of 5-year-old twin girls, just didn’t feel right. She’d been dealing with recurring digestive issues but when she noticed blood in her stool, she made an appointment to see NorthShore gastroenterologist Laura Bianchi, MD. At the appointment, Dr. Bianchi recommended a screening colonoscopy, an outpatient procedure that would ultimately save Susan’s life. 

At only 43, Susan was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Thankfully, Susan’s cancer was discovered at its earliest stage and after surgery performed by Joseph Muldoon, MD, Susan is now cancer free.

Here, she tells us about her experience at NorthShore, why she strongly recommends seeking medical advice if something doesn’t feel right and how a difficult diagnosis renewed her outlook on life: 

What stood out most about your treatment at NorthShore and your experience with Dr. Bianchi and Dr. Muldoon?
The entire process, from the colonoscopy to surgery, was very smooth and well organized at NorthShore. Dr. Bianchi was very patient, thorough and informative during the process. She also had a personal, caring approach that helped keep me at ease.

I felt blessed to have Dr. Muldoon as my surgeon. He came highly recommended and I felt very confident in his skill and approach to my surgery.

What does your care plan look like going forward? How often will you continue to be screened?
Right now, I am continuing follow-up appointments with Dr. Muldoon, and since the pathology report came back negative, I will only require annual screenings. 

What would you tell other women your age who are experiencing unusual digestive issues?
After hearing my story, women have told me about their own symptoms and I always strongly recommended they seek an evaluation.

What would you tell someone who is afraid to have a colonoscopy performed either out of fear of pain or embarrassment?
I tell people the process and procedure is much simpler than they would expect. I also share how important it is to work through that fear because in my case it saved my life.

What’s next for you and your family? What do you look forward to the most? 
I have a renewed outlook on life. I look forward to watching my kids grow up and spending as much time with my family as possible! 

What did you learn through this experience?
I learned that God is in control of my life. He demonstrated love and care through orchestrating events that revealed the cancer early and set me on a path with the most highly skilled medical team. I believe each staff member, nurse, doctor (namely Dr. Bianchi and Dr. Muldoon) were a gift from God. I only need to remember this experience and I am thankful and praising God for what He did for me and hope He blesses all the hands that helped me!