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
I was in my mid-30s when my wife, Kathleen, and I began noticing that I was often exhausted. It seemed that all I did at home was eat and sleep. But we had a 1-year-old and an infant at the time, and I was working 12 hours or more each day on our farm—naturally, we assumed these were the reasons I was tired. Who wouldn’t be?
But one day in the summer of 2012, during a family outing to the zoo, I ran across the parking lot to get the car and almost passed out. I told Kathleen on our way home and wondered if I should see the doctor. She was adamant in her response: Yes, it was time to see a doctor.
Our primary care physician near our home in northeastern Kansas told me that my red blood cell count was so low that I needed a transfusion. I went to our local hospital for the transfusion, and subsequent tests soon showed that I was losing blood though my gastrointestinal tract. I needed a colonoscopy and possibly also an endoscopy to diagnose the problem.
I went for the colonoscopy at a nearby clinic as soon as possible. During that test, the problem was immediately clear: There was a tumor in my colon. The diagnosis was a shock. I had been healthy my whole life. I was in good shape and maintained an active lifestyle. But I knew that I could not get too caught up wondering why this was happening. What was needed now was to get treated.
A fast second opinion
The diagnosis was made on a Tuesday, and later that week, Kathleen and I met with an oncologist and a surgeon locally. But that weekend, we happened to speak with the doctor, now retired, who had delivered our first two children. He encouraged us to get a second opinion, and mentioned Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) as one option to explore.
My surgery was scheduled already, but we heeded the advice. We looked at the CTCA® website and then called. Speaking with a representative from CTCA was enough to make me want to travel to Chicago. I liked what we were told about the approach to cancer care at CTCA. We changed our minds about having the surgery locally, and later the next week flew to Illinois for a consultation at Midwestern Regional Medical Center in Zion.
Once we arrived, our impression of CTCA matched what we’d thought after the phone call. A schedule for our few days there had been prepared, and a nurse navigator met us almost as soon as we stepped in the door.
After reviewing my diagnostic scans and colonoscopy results, my surgeon told us that surgery would be his recommended approach, and that after the procedure, he and the other doctors on my team could determine if additional treatment was needed. He then told us he could do the surgery that Monday if I wanted. After talking it over, Kathleen and I both responded yes.
A team in my corner
As planned, I had the surgery that next Monday. During the procedure, my surgeon saw that the tumor had grown through the colon wall. He could see at that point that I needed a more intensive surgery than the laparoscopic procedure he had planned on. I was under anesthesia, of course, but my surgeon informed Kathleen that the team needed to change course. When I was awake, he explained to me what he needed to do. He proposed that I undergo the HIPEC procedure, which stands for hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy. With this approach, heated chemotherapy is pumped through the abdomen during surgery to reach any microscopic cells that normal chemotherapy may not reach. My surgeon has extensive experience with this approach, and indeed he was able to remove all visible signs of cancer during the procedure.
The surgery was in mid-August, and that October, I began chemotherapy, which entailed an infusion every three weeks for eight rounds. Although I could have received the chemotherapy near our home, under the supervision of CTCA, Kathleen and I decided to continue treatment in Chicago. We were both so comfortable there, and preferred to travel for the kind of care I was receiving.
I did have some side effects from chemotherapy. In particular, I had some soreness and sensitivity in my hands and feet. My care team knew which drug was causing this side effect, so they adjusted the dose to a manageable level so that I would not be in pain.
The care team continued to work together throughout my treatment to ensure that I was comfortable and that all my individual needs were being met. The doctors talk with one another, they work together every day, all in the same building, and this approach has a huge impact on the care that patients receive.
After my first surgery, I was in the hospital for 26 days. I was told that the normal recovery time is 10 to 14 days, but a complication prolonged my recovery time. Kathleen was there with our infant the entire duration, and they were both treated so well. The hotel rate was reduced, and they could have meals at the CTCA cafeteria. All our external concerns were taken care of, and all I had to do was focus on getting better.
One last hurdle
Then, about a week after completing chemotherapy, I had a major setback. Some scar tissue was causing a bowel obstruction, and I needed another surgery. Although a surgeon in my hometown was willing to perform the surgery under the guidance of my surgeon at CTCA, there was a concern that side effects from one of my chemo drugs would complicate surgery. Because of the seriousness of the situation and our confidence in my care team, we really wanted to get back to CTCA. A local business owner who had a plane offered to fly us—Kathleen, me and two of our children—to Chicago.
I had the surgery and remained in the hospital for about two months. My bowel had perforated, but the surgery was a success. As a bonus, my surgeon was able to confirm during that procedure that there was no visible cancer.
This surgery and hospital stay was the most difficult time for me. I couldn’t eat, my weight dropped, and I felt very weak. But my dietitian looked after me so carefully. I am recovered now, back to where I was before all this began. I went to CTCA every four to six months for three years and now only once a year. Thankfully, there is still no evidence of disease.
Celebrating life and family
We are so thankful to God for taking care of me and my family. These days, all the significant moments in life feel just a little more special. I wanted to make a full recovery so that I could be here to take care of my family. In April 2015, God chose to bless us by adding another baby to our family, and my wife gave birth to Halle Joy. Halle means “unexpected gift,” and we are so thankful for her! We have six children, and I want to be here to support them. It has been wonderful to witness the many birthdays of my children since my diagnosis, and I look forward to celebrating more with them. My wife and family supported me through this hard time, and with their care along with the care provided by CTCA, I can now be here for them. I am so thankful God led us to CTCA!