On Jan. 18, 2012, my husband Jared was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. He was just 39 years old. A hard working lawyer, devoted father to our three daughters and active member of our community, Jared rarely slowed down and was always ready to crack a joke.
For a few months before his diagnosis, Jared had started experiencing abdominal discomfort. After trying several antibiotics, Jared's symptoms didn't improve. Around Thanksgiving, it became clear that he needed a colonoscopy, a procedure that he was a tad uneasy about having. We scheduled it for after the holidays and our middle daughter's 8th birthday party.
About 15 minutes into the colonoscopy, a nurse summoned me to the recovery area where the doctor told me that Jared had colon cancer. I felt as though I'd been kicked in the stomach.
After composing myself, I called Jared's father, who is a neurosurgeon and a stage IV melanoma survivor. That afternoon, Jared had a chest and abdominal CT scan, which revealed "suspicious" spots on Jared's liver.
The next day Jared had his colon resection surgery. The doctor removed five feet of his descending and sigmoid colon. Jared hadn't eaten in three days, but he was in good spirits and eager to get his walks in so that he could be discharged from the hospital.
Jared's colon cancer treatment at MD Anderson
With surgery behind him, Jared wanted his care to be directed by the wonderful doctors at MD Anderson. When we arrived at MD Anderson, we met with Scott Kopetz, M.D., Ph.D. He explained that Jared would need six rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the liver tumors before having liver resection surgery.
Jared tolerated the chemotherapy well and rarely complained, though I know that he felt awful. His infusions started every other Friday and lasted for 48 hours. At the time, he was coaching softball for our daughter, Kendall. Despite his nausea and inability to touch or drink cold objects and drinks, he coached every game. He even high-fived the girls on both teams. That gesture, sweet as it was, made my skin crawl. Jared's immune system was compromised by the chemo, and I was afraid he'd get sick.
On June 7, 2012, Jared had much of the right lobe of his liver, part of the left lobe of the liver and his gallbladder removed. This surgery left him weak and tired, and his hospital stay was much longer than it had been for the colon surgery.
When Jared finally came home, he tired easily. He continued to work for short periods every day, eventually working back up to his old schedule. Just when he began feeling better, the second round of chemotherapy began. Still, Jared continued to be his upbeat and hilarious self, tolerating chemo like a champ. Not long after his last chemo infusion, Jared's CT scans revealed no signs of cancer in his body. He was disease-free!
A life-changing year
Jared is now scanned every six months, and I'm thrilled to report that he has been disease-free for three years.
While we'll always remember 2012 as an incredibly difficult and life-changing year for our family, Jared and I have come out of it full of gratitude. We are immensely thankful for the wonderful doctors at MD Anderson who saved Jared's life. We are also thankful for the PAs, nurses, volunteers and senior patient affairs specialist Elizabeth McCall, who made our chemo visits almost pleasant and fun.
We're also incredibly grateful for our families and friends who jumped in to help with our little girls and cooked us more than 100 meals. Even though we felt pretty lousy when we left MD Anderson some evenings, we always saw someone or some family whose situation was harder than ours.
And I always saw what I've seen in Jared for as long as I've known him -- a sense of humor and a positive attitude that allowed him to get the better of cancer rather than cancer getting the better of him.