My husband, Mason, is a small-town boy from Cisco, Texas. He graduated from Sam Houston State University with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. After graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves and got a job with the police department.
I work as a high school English teacher in Pearland, Texas. We settled there because, as I like to say, "it was all part of God's plan." If we hadn't chosen Pearland, Mason's father would never have come to MD Anderson for treatment. If he'd never come here, we might not know about Lynch Syndrome.
Without knowledge of Lynch Syndrome, who knows where Mason would be today.
June 17 has become quite an important date for us. On June 17, 2010, we closed on our first house. On June 17, 2011, Mason, my 27-year-old husband, was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer.
One year you're busy decorating your new home with your new husband and looking to start a family, and the next, you're faced with a life-threatening illness.
In December 2009, my husband's father was diagnosed with stage I colon cancer. He isn't from around Houston, but since Mason and I live here, he decided to seek treatment at MD Anderson.
Should have known
He came, saw the doctors and genetic counselors, and through these visits learned that he had Lynch Syndrome. If I'm correct, Lynch Syndrome is a genetic mutation of a gene that fights colon cancer, as well as many other types of cancer.
In all honesty, we should have seen this coming. Mason's grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great-grandfather were all, at some point in their lives, stricken with colon cancer. Thankfully, my wonderful father-in-law was treated and sent on his way, with orders for routine check-ups for the rest of his life.
It also was advised that his immediate family be tested for Lynch Syndrome.
Flash forward to Halloween 2010. Mason began to complain of stomach pains. He always described it as coming in waves. He would have to stop doing what he was doing just to let the pain subside.
He went to our family doctor for an answer. The doctor had Mason go through a few tests with no results. He gave him a medication for muscle spasms, thinking that would be the cure. Two months later, no cure.
He went back to the same doctor twice more, and was finally told to go to a gastroenterologist. By this point, we knew we had to go to MD Anderson. However, this was right at the end of April 2011, and Mason was leaving for a month of training with his Army Reserves unit. He wouldn't be able to see a doctor until the beginning of June.
They found something
While he was away, I was able to make him a few appointments at MD Anderson, with a gastroenterologist and a genetic counselor. June 9 was the day. We headed in with no expectations.
During the initial visit, a colonoscopy was set for June 17. After the colonoscopy, the doctor came out. Mason was still groggy from the anesthesia. The doctor told me that he'd found something. My heart stopped.
He explained the location of the tumor, showed me pictures and left me to report the results to my husband. I'm sure you can guess the rest of the evening.
The following week included CT scan after CT scan. We met with the surgeon,
Yi-Qian Nancy You, M.D. She was the surgeon for Mason's father. She is wonderful.
We scheduled the surgery for June 30. After the surgery, which took about four hours, Dr. You came out and told us she had gotten everything and only a couple of the lymph nodes closest to the tumor were involved with the cancer. The rest were benign. But because of the lymph node involvement, chemotherapy would be required.
Mason endured 12 rounds of chemotherapy. From Friday evening to Sunday afternoon every other weekend, he became a hermit.
Sleeping away the weekend was the only way he could survive the treatments. Usually, the following Monday was spent recuperating. So, that's how life went, for six months. Then came Jan. 15, 2012 -- his last chemotherapy treatment.
We left with a sense of relief, but not really. Post-treatment scans were set for Feb. 7, 2012. On February 8, we learned Mason was cancer-free. He will go through scans every three months for the next two years, followed by every six months for the next three years. We're looking forward to a "cured" date of Feb. 8, 2017.
Something that Mason has always been passionate about is exercise. He knows that a fit body will only help him in this battle. Therefore, when he heard about the SCOPE 5K to support colon cancer research, he decided that we needed to create a team to run the race.
Team Mason will be out running to support colon cancer research on March 24. The only hiccup is that Mason can't be there. His Army duties have taken him to Fort Hood for the entire month of March. Even though he will miss the race, he will be there in spirit.
In a way, that's good. He's back to living his life as an Army solider and police officer. He's always working to protect others, so during this race, his team will be running to protect him.
And, hopefully, June 17 will be just a regular day.