David R. - Cancer

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David R.

No one expects cancer. But after I started passing blood a little after my 36th birthday, I began to fear the worst.

After what felt like an eternity of waiting while my symptoms seemingly compounded, the date for my colonoscopy finally arrived. The news was devastating. I had stage 3 rectal cancer, and it required immediate treatment.

After a meeting with Dr. Vikas Dembla, my treatment plan was put into action. I was to start with 28 treatments of chemoradiotherapy (CRT). Every weekday, I would go in for radiation treatment and take my meds twice a day.

After the initial shock, I met with Dr. Jeremy Kilburn to plan the radiation treatments. I even ended up with a few new tattoos out of the whole deal. Radiation was a pain, but the entire care team was amazing. They laughed at my butt jokes, they helped me overcome my nervousness, and they eased my fear. They are truly amazing people.

I had a nice little break between radiation and infusion chemo, but over four months, I went through eight infusions of oxaliplatin and 5-fluorouracil. I wore a pump for about 48 hours after each infusion to deliver the FOLFOX drugs right into my system. Just like radiation, chemo sucked. Yet I looked forward to every treatment because the care team truly was exceptional. My infusion nurse, Jennifer, was quite possibly the kindest person I have ever met, and each visit was full of laughs and love.

After chemo, I was in the home stretch. I just had to undergo two surgeries a couple of months apart. My surgeon, Dr. Gareth McGee, is a truly wonderful person. Not just because he cut cancer out of me and installed a life-saving loop ileostomy, but because he took the time to talk with me, to make me feel better about my situation, and to encourage me to hold on to the positive attitude that had gotten me so far. He was truthful with me and told me about the upcoming struggles, but he also gave me all the resources he could think of, including sending me to the wound care team.

Having an ostomy was a huge life change, and I could not have done it without help from the wound care team. They shared tips, tricks and knowledge, and – as I have come to expect from Gibbs Cancer Center care teams – they did it all with an apparent love and kindness that I deeply appreciate.

My ileostomy has been reversed since June 2023. In the four months between then and now, I have gotten back to the things that I missed over the past year. I have been spending as much time with my loving wife and kids as I possibly can. I have gone on many adventures. I have met goals and faced new challenges.

My life has changed because of the cancer that tried to take me out, but it has also been changed by the wonderful people who took care of me and treated me with so much love. I will be eternally grateful to them for giving me more time.