My colorectal cancer treatment: How I’m coping

I was raised believing that everything happens for a reason, and that’s exactly how I’ve chosen to approach my treatment for colorectal cancer.

I was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer in the November 2012 after I started experiencing pain in my stomach. At first, I thought I might’ve become lactose intolerant, but when the pain persisted, I went to the doctor. 

A stool test revealed blood, so my doctor insisted I undergo a colonoscopy. Even though I was 67 at the time, I’d never done the procedure before because I wasn’t aware of the colorectal cancer screening guidelines. Sure enough, my colonoscopy confirmed I had cancer.

Beginning my colorectal cancer treatment

I immediately started chemotherapy near my East Texas home, and then at my doctor’s recommendation, I came to MD Anderson in June 2013 for a partial colectomy to remove part of my colon. 

The surgery successfully removed all but a tiny spot of my cancer. I then underwent more chemotherapy to treat the remaining cancer. Thankfully, I was given the option of receiving chemotherapy under the care of Dr. Douglas Nelson at MD Anderson in The Woodlands, which cut the commute from my East Texas home by more than an hour. 

I received the chemo combination FOLRIFI/Bevacizumab from July-October 2014 and then 5-FU/Bevacizumab, a type of maintenance chemo, from October 2014-April 2015. My scans showed that my cancerous spot was still there, but it was small enough that I got by with just observation for 4 months. But when the spot started growing after 4 months, Dr. Nelson said I had to resume treatment.

Coping with setbacks during my cancer treatment

I was disappointed, but from the beginning, I’d told myself that I’d do whatever it takes to reach the end. This time, that meant undergoing radiation therapy. Under the care of Dr. Marc Delclos, I received 26 radiation treatments in fall 2015. 

Unfortunately, my cancer proved to be more stubborn than anyone expected. As a result, Dr. Nelson put me on back on 5-FU/Bevacizumab for another month. I was stable again for nearly a year, but scans in October 2016 showed the cancer had spread, so I had to resume chemotherapy.

It was pretty aggravating to not see an end to treatment in sight. But instead of focusing on this setback, I reminded myself that I’m still alive and I’ve been blessed with yet another opportunity to fight back. 

I’m glad I chose to stay positive because it’s helped me better cope with all the other hurdles I’ve faced. 

Faith has helped me through colorectal cancer treatment

In February 2014, my diagnostic scans revealed suspicious activity outside of the area where I’d previously received radiation therapy. As a result, I underwent another two weeks of radiation. 

Afterwards, I started taking Xeloda-Avastin, a type of maintenance chemotherapy. I remained on it until March 2018, when I had to undergo 26 rounds of radiation therapy when another mass was discovered on my tailbone. Now back to receiving biweekly Xeloda-Avastin infusions. 

I don’t know how long I’ll stay on this maintenance chemotherapy, or what will happen next. But even with all of the setbacks I’ve faced, I still feel like I’m going to be around awhile because of the care I’ve received at MD Anderson. My faith is where it needs to be, and I know that this is all happening for a reason.

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