The hardest part for me was drinking the bowel prep. The procedure itself was easy; it just felt like a great nap. But when I woke up, my doctor said that he had found a tumor and it was likely cancerous.
A CT scan confirmed that I had a tumor, but it didn’t appear to have spread. My wife advised me to make an appointment at MD Anderson. I hesitated because of the distance between Houston and our home in Brownsville, Texas. I’m a college professor, and I felt like I wouldn’t have time for the travel.
But my wife told me, “You’ve got the finest cancer hospital up the road. Go.” I knew she was right, so I called and made an appointment.
Colorectal cancer surgery at MD Anderson
From the moment I first walked into MD Anderson West Houston, I was so impressed. The hospital was beautiful, welcoming and technologically advanced. Even the architecture made me feel like I had walked into the future, which gave me a sense of calm. I knew I was in the right place.
I had my first appointment with a colorectal surgeon. What struck me about the doctors and nurses at MD Anderson was their empathy – they listened more than they talked. They told me with confidence that I was going to be fine.
Additional imaging confirmed my diagnosis: sigmoid adenocarcinoma. In March 2023, I had laparoscopic surgery at MD Anderson’s Texas Medical Center Campus to remove the tumor. I was able to avoid an ostomy bag because of the tumor’s location.
I recovered quickly from surgery. The surgery was in the morning and by that evening I was walking around on my floor of the hospital. Within a week, I was able to drive my wife and myself back home and was shocked to feel quite normal.
Teaching my students about the importance of colonoscopies
During surgery, my surgeon discovered that the tumor had penetrated the wall of my colon and that a few lymph nodes were affected. This meant the cancer was stage III.
To make sure there weren’t any remaining cancer cells, it was recommended I also undergo chemotherapy. Kaysia Ludford, M.D., has coordinated my chemotherapy treatments with a local doctor so I can be closer to home. I started a FOLFOX chemotherapy regimen in June. It hasn’t been easy, and I’ve realized I need to rest for a few days after treatment. The current plan is for me to receive chemotherapy through October. I get an infusion every three weeks and take pills at home on a schedule of two weeks on and one week off.
I know that colon cancer is showing up in younger people, so I tell my students to not make the mistake I did and put off getting a colonoscopy. My surgeon told me I’d likely had this tumor for many years. If I’d gotten a colonoscopy earlier, I might have avoided all of this.