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Rod Echols

Colorectal cancer - Stage III

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

After noticing some blood in my stools, I was diagnosed with hemorrhoids by my local physician. I have a family history of colon cancer, and this problem made me wonder if I might be suffering from the same disease. I had no pain but I suspected something more than hemorrhoids was causing the problem. I was 38 years old at the time, and my wife, Keisha, and I had two young children.

I followed my instinct and scheduled a colonoscopy, which revealed a polyp that was positive for cancer. I was referred to a local surgeon in Atlanta. This surgeon tried to remove the polyp with minimally invasive surgery, but during the procedure, the surgeon noticed that the cancer was deeper than previously suspected. Also, it had spread to my lymph nodes. 

I decided to seek a second opinion. There were no local CTCA facilities at the time but I called the location outside Chicago and traveled there for a consultation. The staff there made all our arrangements. Keisha and I flew there with our daughter, we were picked up at the airport, and hotel accommodations were made for the week we spent there meeting with different doctors and having tests done.

The timing worked out well for us because the CTCA facility outside Atlanta was opening up. So after our experience with getting a second opinion, I decided to pursue treatment at CTCA—at the new facility that was just a short drive from our house.

Getting through treatment

After surgery, my treatment has consisted of chemotherapy and radiation. I took Xeloda at first, and now I am taking a combination of Xeloda and oxaliplatin.

The medications cause fatigue and sensitivity to cold. My care team at CTCA prepared me for these side effects. They took away my gelato when I first started treatment because they knew it would be painful for me to eat something that cold. The sensitivity lasts for a week or two after each treatment. Other side effects have also been addressed by my care team. My naturopathic clinician and dietitian recommended B complex, glutamine, L-glutamine, supplementing my food intake with a protein shake, and making sure to eat fruits that would help keep my energy levels up, like bananas and berries.

I was one of the first patients to be treated at Southeastern Regional Medical Center. It was really helpful to have the surgeon and radiation oncologist in the room at the same time discussing my treatment. The team has gone out of its way to provide the best care possible. The radiation team stayed late when I needed it, and everyone arranged their schedule around mine. My doctors took whatever time was needed to answer whatever questions Keisha and I had about my treatment and recovery.

With this support, and the support and amazing care that Keisha has given me, I have been able to continue working. No one at my workplace even knew I had cancer while I was going through chemotherapy and radiation. When I was about to undergo surgery, I let my coworkers know. They were so inspired by my ability to continue working while I was coping with treatment.

Support for my support

Keisha has been my caregiver while I’ve been going through cancer treatment. The team at CTCA has recognized her vital role in my care from the start. When we arrive for my treatment, the staff members ask her how she is doing. It can be very stressful for her to handle my needs and take care of our two children. My care team makes sure she knows there are people at CTCA she can talk with to help her get through the stress.

My care team has made sure to include Keisha in all discussions. She has to hear what the dietitian recommends because she is the one purchasing groceries. They have educated her about what vegetables I need, provided recipes, and even made sure to offer child-friendly ideas so whatever Keisha prepares for me will be good for the whole family. Having access to a nutritionist and then implementing her recommendations has changed our whole lifestyle.

But that wasn’t all. The care team also made sure Keisha looked after herself. They encouraged her to get a massage while I had radiation, which she did. They made time to ask about her questions and concerns, and they responded to everything. She knew everything I would be going through, how long the anesthesia would last—every last detail. I knew Keisha needed that kind of support to stay strong. I was so glad to be somewhere where the caregiver is treated with the same importance as the patient.

I’m very grateful that Keisha has been there for me through all this. We’ve been married for six years and I am looking forward to decades together. My son is starting to play sports now and I’m able to attend all his events. I feel well and I keep a positive mindset about my future health. CTCA has become like an extended family for us.

Keisha's story

CTCA was in the back of my mind when Rod began his cancer treatment but I didn’t mention it at first because the facility near us had not opened yet. The CEO of a company I used to work for had gone through cancer treatment at CTCA and had spoken highly of his care there. When Rod got his initial diagnosis, there was a sense of urgency so we went with the surgeon who’d been recommended locally.

When that surgeon mentioned a second procedure, I knew I wanted to get a second opinion. Rod had seen a CTCA commercial and decided to call. He had such a look of relief after speaking with CTCA. We knew that was where he needed to go.

At most doctor offices, the focus is on the patient, as it should be. But when there is a spouse or other caregiver who is cooking the meals and taking care of the patient, that caregiver also needs to be involved. CTCA includes the caregiver. I’m not sure that happens anywhere else. The doctors involve me, as his caregiver, in all conversations and decisions.

I have worked for several years in customer service, including at a five-star hotel, and I am very sensitive to that dynamic. At CTCA, we received the best care and service imaginable. There was nothing that was not thought of or done.

Staying positive is crucial for the patient and for the caregiver. We are all human and we all have moments of weakness. Taking advantage of the services offered by CTCA was so helpful. I would recommend that other caregivers do the same. You don’t have to handle this all on your own.

CTCA is a community for the patient and for you: Everyone involved should use their support systems. I was able to speak with a dietitian who addressed not just Rod’s needs  but our entire family’s nutritional needs. I got massages and talked to people about how to help my husband cope with side effects. I could talk to anyone just as easily as he could. Communication is so important to treatment. CTCA could not have done a better job with communicating about every aspect of my husband’s diagnosis, care and recovery.