Colorectal cancer survivor: Explore your family’s cancer history

As a funeral home owner and operator in Spartanburg, South Carolina,
the Rev. Lawrence Meadows knows what it means when doctors start
talking about hospice.

“That implies you only have about 14 days to live,” he says. “And
the next thing you know, you’re getting a sponge of water rubbed
across your lips and maybe some ice chips.”

That prognosis was unacceptable to Lawrence, who was only 39 last
October when he was diagnosed at a local hospital with stage IV colorectal cancer. So, he came to MD Anderson for a second opinion.

“When you go buy a car, you’re going to look at as many options as
possible to find the best one,” he says. “And if you’d do that for a
car, or a house, or even insurance, why wouldn’t you do that for your health?”

Weight loss leads to colorectal cancer diagnosis

The first sign of trouble was when Lawrence began dropping weight
last fall without trying. “I lost between 18 and 25 pounds in about
four weeks,” he says. “None of my clothes fit me anymore, and they’re
all tailor-made.”

He was also experiencing constipation and could only eat a small
amount of food before feeling full. The laxative Lawrence’s doctor
prescribed didn’t help. So, in October 2016, Lawrence saw a
specialist, who ordered a CT scan. It revealed a mass the size of a
baseball in his colon. Two days later, Lawrence had surgery to remove it.

“I was a bit surprised,” Lawrence recalls. “I’m not a drinker or a
smoker. And I eat my vegetables.”

Seeking help for colorectal cancer at MD Anderson

The surgeon told Lawrence that the tumor was probably cancerous, but
he couldn’t be sure until the test results came back. Since the growth
had already spread to Lawrence’s stomach lining, liver and hip bone,
it was deemed stage IV. Lawrence was told to start getting his affairs
in order.

Instead, his friends and family began researching the best cancer
facilities in the country. Ultimately, Lawrence chose MD Anderson.

“I have a wife, a 4-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter to think
about,” says the Baptist pastor. “So I decided that this was going to
be a faith walk.”

Colorectal cancer treatment begins

At MD Anderson, Lawrence met with Scott Kopetz, M.D., who confirmed the
adenocarcinoma diagnosis and recommended a chemotherapy cocktail called FOLFIRI
(folinic acid, fluorouracil, and
irinotecan). Lawrence has received 19 rounds of it so
far, and the results are promising.

“I’m down to three small spots of cancer now, with one pressing
against my bladder and two others in my stomach lining,” he says.

Family cancer history matters

Lawrence continues to fly back to Houston every other week for his
treatments. He also encourages everyone he knows to learn more about
their family’s cancer history.

“Finding out about your family history is super important,” he says.
“I did a comprehensive family tree after I was diagnosed, and learned
that on my father’s side, two aunts died of lung cancer, a 2-year-old
niece died of sarcoma, and both grandparents died of colorectal
cancer. If I’d known that sooner, I might have been able to avoid all
this by getting screened earlier.”

Hear more of Lawrence’s story when he gives a keynote speech at
this year’s myCancerConnection Cancer Survivorship
Conference
. The event will take place on Sept. 14 and 15.

Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by
calling 1-877-632-6789.