Gloria Borges (Courtesy The Wunder Project)

One woman fights for the cure of colon cancer

Gloria Borges was never an ordinary woman. Since 2007, the Duke University and Stanford Law alum has been working as an attorney at a prestigious international law firm in Los Angeles, litigating for major corporations. Now 31, she’s fighting stage 4 colon cancer, as well as for the cure for her disease — which according to The American Cancer Society, affected 102,480 Americans for the first time in  just this year alone.

The very active lawyer says she started feeling the symptoms for colon cancer three years ago, before she was knew she had the disease, but they weren’t so strong that they slowed her down. She still continued to work 14-hour days at the firm and working out, but things got significantly worse in the summer of 2010.

“I heard crazy sounds coming out of my gut — almost like my stomach was growling, but it was more like an aquarium,” says Borges. “In June, I was on the phone with my best friend and he was like, ‘If that’s your stomach, you have to go to the doctor’ — that’s how loud it was.’”

In July, she says she went to see her general doctor, because she was having diarrhea six times a day on top of the loud noises. Borges says her doctor blamed the problem on her high-protein, high-fat diet, consisting of no fruits or carbs, and that all she needed was to take probiotics.

“She didn’t want to refer me to a [gastrointestinal] doctor,” says Borges, who continued to insist on an appointment because she was at the point where she couldn’t keep food down. “They gave me an appointment for September, and I felt that was going to be too late so I checked myself into the ER.”

Borges says she thought she had food poisoning, and once in the hospital it took six days to get a colonoscopy. When the results came back, she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer — the most advanced type.

“They were looking at everything except colon cancer,” she says. “Maybe it was because of my age, and I looked strong…I say about 10 percent [of people with colon cancer] are people under 50, but that number is also rising. People and doctors aren’t on top of it, and people go misdiagnosed for months.”

Because of her late diagnosis, Borges wasn’t supposed to make it to her 30th birthday, and she started a blog in order to educate other people about the mysterious disease.

There are three symptoms to be on the lookout for, she says: any marked change in your bowel movements, blood in your stool, and bloating (or any type of abdominal pain).

“You need to be your own advocate,” says the woman who takes matters into her own hands. “Now I’m aware of my body and have the best doctor, but back then, even when the general practitioner told me take probiotics, I knew it was wrong.”

Last month, she took a leave of absence from her job to found a non-profit called The Wunder Project — to fund colon cancer research.

“It’s kind of mind blowing — my oncologist and I started this together,” says Borges. “I asked him, ‘If you could have all the money in the world, could you cure colon cancer?’ and he said, ‘yes.’”

She says she was able to raise $150,000 before the non-profit’s launch, and now all the money raised will go straight to the doctors.

“The goal is to develop the drug that can cure colon cancer…which would provide a blueprint for other cancers without surgery,” says Borges. “The only thing holding [the doctors] back is funds, and that is my job.”

In between traveling to raise money, and going to the gym every day to play basketball, Borges also became a vegan and says it has improved her health immensely.

“You look at me now, and you wouldn’t know I’ve had 46 rounds of chemotherapy and three surgeries,” she says. “I looked up the link between food and cancer, and after doing my own research, I realized the connection between animal protein and cancer growth was too strong for me to ignore it…I encourage other patients to do the same.”

She feels changing her diet has been central to making her as strong and healthy as she is, and she’s happy she still gets to eat her Mexican food.

“My grandmother has learned to make her dishes vegan for me,” says Borges. “She makes special Spanish rice with brown rice, enchiladas with vegan cheese…My mom became vegan with me. It’s not hard in LA.”

Next up for Borges, after she beats her colon cancer and funds the cure in the next 10 years, is running for office.

“I’d love to be the mayor of LA — I had that goal since I was a kid,” she says. “My goal my entire life has been to help people as much as possible. That’s why I became a lawyer, and I founded the Wunder Project, because I get to support people on their darkest day — It’s so gratifying…I just want to improve people’s lives.”

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