COVID-19 for North Texas Woman Leads To Discovery Of Cancer

Her COVID-19 infection became so serious that she had to be hospitalized, but while in the hospital, doctors discovered an even bigger medical issue

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COVID-19 may be serious for some while unpleasant for others. For a Cedar Hill woman, her COVID-19 infection lead to another discovery that saved her life.

When Tonya Dawson endured eight long days in the hospital, barely able to breathe, she thought the worst had passed.

"Double pneumonia, COVID-style is what they called it," said Dawson.

Never did she expect that routine blood tests while hospitalized would reveal a potentially deadly tumor hiding in her body.

"He said, 'Okay, you're extremely anemic. We need to figure out what else is going on. Maybe you should go have a colonoscopy,' because I was due. You're supposed to have it at 50 and I was 53," said Dawson.

That's when doctors discovered a mass inside her colon. Dawson had stage three colon cancer.

"I had it since for ten years, they said, or more! I had a mass that had been growing for more than ten years and I had no idea. It was slow growing but that's why I was anemic," said Dawson. "It was, it was a total shock. Shocking and there was no symptoms whatsoever. I had no symptoms at all."

Dr. Sarju Waghela, oncologist with Methodist Mansfield, says the pandemic forced many people to postpone or skip their regular screenings that can catch growing cancers despite no symptoms.

"Patients don't have to have symptoms," Dr. Waghela said.

In Dawson's case, had she waited any longer, the outcome could have been a lot worse.

"She could have had cancer that has spread outside of the colon and now becomes metastatic, so spreading to the liver, to the bone. The treatment would have been different. The prognosis would have been different. Now you're looking for a treatable condition, not a curable condition," said Dr. Waghela.

Dawson beat her cancer after surgery and chemotherapy, grateful for her COVID-19 diagnosis that may have saved her life.

"How lucky I am, how lucky I am to be alive," said Dawson.

For more on her story and colorectal cancer screenings, visit here.

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