OHSU

My Knight Cancer Story: Ron

Ron - My Knight Cancer StoryI had my first colonoscopy when I was 53. They said I didn’t need to return for 15 years, but several years later, I wasn’t feeling right, so I asked for another. I was glad I did: I had colon cancer. Twenty-three inches of my colon was removed.

After that surgery, my doctor referred me to Dr. Daniel Herzig at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute for follow-up. Eighteen months later, CAT and PET scans at OHSU showed the cancer had moved from my colon to my liver. That’s when my cancer went from stage 2 to stage 4. Dr. Herzig and the oncology team suggested I meet with Dr. Kevin Billingsley  to discuss my options.

Dr. Billingsley is a great guy, great doctor, great surgeon. I met with him three or four times when I was deciding if I should have liver resection surgery  so they could remove the tumors that could be removed. When I asked him how long I could live without surgery, he said 12-24 months. That didn’t sound good to me.

I decided to have Dr. Billingsley do the liver resection. During the surgery, half my liver was removed, taking two of the four tumors. They couldn’t all be removed, because of where they were located. It was a five-hour surgery. I did really well, and can credit much of that to my care team: Typically people who have this surgery stay in the hospital seven days, but I was out in three.

At the suggestion of my oncology team, I went for chemotherapy after surgery, but stopped after one treatment: I had every side effect possible. Dr. Herzig and Dr. Billingsley were gracious about my decision. It was refreshing to have doctors be supportive instead of dictating what I should do. My team respected my wishes and worked together really, really well.

My liver resection surgery was in 2010. Since then, my cancer hasn’t decided to jump up and take over the rest of my body: My tumors have not increased. I eat more fruits and vegetables. I walk more. I go to the beach frequently. My energy level has increased. I credit my faith, family and friends in addition to my care team at OHSU in helping me recover.

I still get calls from doctors at OHSU who want to see how I’m doing. Dr. Billingsley and I have become friends; we’ve gone for coffee a few times and he’s thrilled I’m doing so well. Dr. Herzig is also a great surgeon — and listener. For example, he does my annual colonoscopy, but one time, I wasn’t feeling well after only six months, so we moved it up. We were glad, because he took out many polyps. It’s nice to have that dialogue with my doctor.

My advice is to get screened. I don’t care how old you are — talk to your doctor. Be informed: Whenever OHSU has a colorectal cancer lecture or event I go to it.  I haven’t worked with any of OHSU’s cancer survivorship groups yet, but when friends have cancer questions or want to hear about my experience, I always advise them to get screened at OHSU.