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Martin Martinez

Colorectal cancer - Stage IV

This testimonial includes a description of this patient’s actual medical results. Those results may not be typical or expected for the particular disease type described in this testimonial. You should not expect to experience these results.

View CTCA treatment results for colorectal cancer

My story

Out of the blue, one day in May 2012, I felt a sharp pain in my left side. It hurt enough to take notice but I figured it would pass. It did – but only temporarily. A couple weeks later, it started hitting me in bed at about 3 a.m. and would last for a few hours every day. My coworkers noticed I was losing weight and would ask what was wrong.

I had no idea until one night after dinner, the pain hit me again as I sat on the porch of my home in San Angelo, Texas. It was so intense it made me fold. I told my wife, Elizabeth, I needed to go the emergency room. There, on June 9, 2012, I learned I had a tumor the size of a baseball on my colon.

The news rattled me and my family to the core. The doctor at my local hospital said I needed surgery immediately to repair a tear in my large intestine, which could become septic and lead to a dangerous infection, and to remove the tumor. Of course, I had the surgery.

Four weeks later, I went to an oncologist in San Angelo to find out how I could beat the cancer. The visit, though, left me depressed. The doctor told me I had Stage IV colon cancer. I felt like hope was draining from my body. I wasn’t ready to die. I thought about my wife, Elizabeth, who’s been at my side for 37 years, and of my grandchildren, who I want to see grow up.

Getting a second opinion

I remembered that my cousin had colon cancer, too, and when Elizabeth called her, we learned she was treated at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) outside Chicago. Elizabeth called CTCA to get a second opinion. From the start, the people at CTCA were really helpful. CTCA booked us a flight to Tulsa and within a few days, we were on our way to Southwestern Regional Medical Center to get a second opinion.

From my first step into the hospital, I knew it was the place I needed to be. After a PET scan, I met with Dr. George River to discuss my results. I told him I really didn’t want to know if the cancer had spread. I have been a smoker for many years and was scared that I had lung cancer, too.

Dr. River told me that everything he knows about my cancer, I would know, too. If I get scared, he told me, we’d get over that together. Besides, he said, the results weren’t bad. The PET scan showed that the cancer had spread to my liver but there were only five spots, each about the size of a quarter.

I told Dr. River I wanted to start chemotherapy as soon as possible. So, that same afternoon, I got my first infusion of chemotherapy. From that moment, I felt that things were going to turn around for me. Dr. River and my entire care team inspired me to see hope in my future. I started to put chin up and focus on fighting my cancer. Whatever it takes, I thought, I’m not giving up.

From July to December, I would travel to Tulsa for chemotherapy infusions every two weeks. CTCA was really helpful and accommodating, especially with my work schedule. As a gauge operator in the oil fields, my schedule is 10 days on at work and four days off. I told Dr. River that I wanted enough chemotherapy to get rid of my cancer but still keep my job. He prescribed me a chemotherapy pill to take during my work week and in between infusions at the hospital.

Working around my schedule

I’m a big football fan and my scheduler at the hospital worked with me so I could get my treatment and be home in time to watch my favorite college team, the Texas Tech Red Raiders, and of course the Dallas Cowboys. I even made it to a couple home games at Texas Tech during my treatment.

Now, I only need to go to Tulsa for check-ups every six weeks. Going back to the hospital really feels like going to my second home. CTCA feels like family, especially my care team. They’re there when I need them and they go out of their way to call me or Elizabeth to see how I’m doing. I feel like I’m the baby of the family and they’re all looking out for me, making sure I get better.

Looking back, I feel blessed to have received care at CTCA and I would recommend the hospital to anyone. Cancer changed my life, but in many ways for the better. I no longer smoke and the fight is back in me. I enjoy spending time with my wife, my two sons and three grandchildren. What’s more, I have a renewed sense of hope and am living my life to the fullest.

Elizabeth's story

Hearing that my husband had cancer knocked the breath out of me. Martin and I met our freshman year in college at Angelo State University when I was just 18 years old. We’ve been together ever since – 37 wonderful years.

Martin’s diagnosis in the doctor’s office in San Angelo made me want to run, to cry, to scream. But I had to be strong for him because, if I was scared, I knew he was scared, too. Martin had never been sick before the surgery to remove the tumor in his colon. I called our family because I wanted everyone, especially our two sons, involved in deciding what we would do next.

Our meeting with our local oncologist was a low point. I started thinking about going on with life by myself. So many thoughts were racing through my head. Our daughter-in-law was expecting at the time. I couldn’t fathom Martin not meeting the baby or being at our family gatherings without him.

We needed other options and started doing our own research. With input from Martin’s cousin, we decided to get a second opinion at CTCA. After two days of faxing information back and forth, we were headed to Tulsa.

We arrived on July 14, 2012. Our initial visit with Dr. River was an important moment in our journey with cancer. Martin’s PET scan showed only a few spots on his liver – something that could be controlled with treatment. It was the first time any doctor had told us something good. I started to feel hopeful and began to see the light at the end of the tunnel getting brighter.

I could see Martin’s mood change, as well. Right away, he committed to chemotherapy. It was the first time I had seen him get excited in a while. The next day, after Martin’s first treatment, we meet with his entire care team. Each member weighed in and offered perspectives on his care that made it better.

For example, Martin’s nutritionist told us what foods he should eat and what he should avoid. We had never heard this advice before and were impressed by the hospital’s whole-person approach. Once we started on our path with CTCA we never looked back.

CTCA gave us hope

The most important thing CTCA gave us was hope. We had no hope when we got there. Before CTCA, we were thinking about Martin’s death, not his life. But, there, his care team got us talking about how he could live. It was infectious.

Then we met patients who had been coming to CTCA for three or five – or even 10 – years. I was filled with relief and thought, okay, we might have a future yet. We have a future. We have something to look forward to.

While all my focus was on Martin, the team at CTCA made sure to take care of me, as well. The philosophy at CTCA is to make sure the caregiver’s needs are met so that caregiver can be there to keep the patient going. It makes sense.

When I was stressed out or tired, I could get a massage or acupuncture. I could visit the beauty salon or fitness room. It was a tremendous help. I feel as much at home at CTCA as Martin does. It’s really easy and comfortable there – like family. They make you feel that way.

I’m so thrilled to see how far Martin has come. Martin’s back and now that he’s not smoking, he’s better than before. We are so grateful. We’re not taking anything for granted, just enjoying it all.