Stage IV colon cancer survivor grateful for MD Anderson
In January 2020, Bart Wilson had a colonoscopy after complaining of lower abdominal pain and blood in his stool. Sensing something was wrong, he listened as the doctor explained what was found: Bart had a large tumor blocking a large portion of his colon, and he’d need emergency surgery to remove it.
A few days later, Bart and his wife met with a local oncologist who told them there was no cure for stage IV colon cancer. Bart, 37, was told that most people diagnosed with this stage of colon cancer had a 15% chance of surviving five years.
“My wife and I left that appointment and sobbed for over an hour in the car,” says Bart, who lives in Oklahoma City. “It was Valentine’s Day and ‘in sickness and in health’ really rang true. We were devastated.”
Bart decided he wasn’t going to let himself become a statistic, so he began researching the best cancer treatment options and decided to make an appointment with MD Anderson.
Finding hope at MD Anderson
The next week, Bart met with his MD Anderson care team, which included liver surgeon Jean-Nicolas Vauthey, M.D., and his physician assistant, Steven Wei.
“They had already looked at my scans and had a plan for my care before I even stepped foot in the door,” says Bart. “They worked with my oncologist, Christine Parseghian, M.D., to go over my chemotherapy schedule before surgery.”
Bart and his family were grateful to find hope at MD Anderson.
“We’d heard a lot of ‘no’ in the past; coming to MD Anderson was the first time we heard ‘yes,’” he says.
Metastatic colon cancer treatment
Bart started with three cycles of chemotherapy treatment with FOLFOX (fluorouracil, oxaliplatin and leucovorin). CT scans showed that the treatment was successful in shrinking nearly 10 tumors in his liver.
Bart then had portal vein embolization to increase the size of the anticipated remaining part of his liver. This was done to prepare for a major liver resection. In May 2020, Vauthey performed an extended right hepatectomy, removing nearly 70% of Bart’s liver.
The pathology report showed that the chemotherapy had killed all the cancer cells in his liver. A few weeks after surgery, Bart’s CT scans showed no signs of cancer. He then completed four months of adjuvant chemotherapy with the oral drug capecitabine to lower the chances of a recurrence.
Personalized colon cancer care makes a difference
Bart completed treatment in December 2020.
“After being diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer on Feb. 1, 2020, it’s pretty remarkable that by mid-May of 2020, I showed no evidence of disease,” he says. “Through it all, my family and I believed that even with such a life-altering diagnosis, the only thing we could do was look forward and have hope that everything would turn out OK. It’s what I truly believed – that I was ultimately going to be OK.”
He credits the staff at MD Anderson for the personalized care he received.
“MD Anderson is one of the most well-run institutions I’ve ever been to,” says Bart. “I appreciate how they take time to care for every patient, especially when their patients are going through something as serious as cancer. It’s that kind of care that truly makes a difference.”
Living in the moment
These days, Bart is happily living in Oklahoma City with his wife and two young children. He’s shown no evidence of disease for almost three years. He returns to MD Anderson for checkups and scans twice a year.
His hope throughout cancer treatment was to one day return to normal.
“I no longer wake up every day thinking about cancer,” he says. “Even though it was such a life-changing experience, my goal is to get back to as close to a normal life as possible.”
Bart says he’s eternally grateful to Dr. Vauthey and MD Anderson for saving his life. His experience has taught him to appreciate every day and live in the moment.
“Living in the moment for me is realizing nothing is certain,” he says “Instead of worrying about what will happen tomorrow, I focus on living my absolute best life today. Getting to watch my kids grow up alongside my wife will be something I never take for granted. I am forever grateful.”