Colorectal cancer survivor: Explore your family’s cancer history
As a funeral home owner and operator in Spartanburg, South Carolina, the Rev. Lawrence Meadows knows what it means when doctors start talking about hospice.
“That implies you only have about 14 days to live,” he says. “And the next thing you know, you’re getting a sponge of water rubbed across your lips and maybe some ice chips.”
That prognosis was unacceptable to Lawrence, who was only 39 last October when he was diagnosed at a local hospital with stage IV colorectal cancer. So, he came to MD Anderson for a second opinion.
“When you go buy a car, you’re going to look at as many options as possible to find the best one,” he says. “And if you’d do that for a car, or a house, or even insurance, why wouldn’t you do that for your health?”
Weight loss leads to colorectal cancer diagnosis
The first sign of trouble was when Lawrence began dropping weight last fall without trying. “I lost between 18 and 25 pounds in about four weeks,” he says. “None of my clothes fit me anymore, and they’re all tailor-made.”
He was also experiencing constipation and could only eat a small amount of food before feeling full. The laxative Lawrence’s doctor prescribed didn’t help. So, in October 2016, Lawrence saw a specialist, who ordered a CT scan. It revealed a mass the size of a baseball in his colon. Two days later, Lawrence had surgery to remove it.
“I was a bit surprised,” Lawrence recalls. “I’m not a drinker or a smoker. And I eat my vegetables.”
Seeking help for colorectal cancer at MD Anderson
The surgeon told Lawrence that the tumor was probably cancerous, but he couldn’t be sure until the test results came back. Since the growth had already spread to Lawrence’s stomach lining, liver and hip bone, it was deemed stage IV. Lawrence was told to start getting his affairs in order.
Instead, his friends and family began researching the best cancer facilities in the country. Ultimately, Lawrence chose MD Anderson.
“I have a wife, a 4-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter to think about,” says the Baptist pastor. “So I decided that this was going to be a faith walk.”
Colorectal cancer treatment begins
At MD Anderson, Lawrence met with Scott Kopetz, M.D., who confirmed the adenocarcinoma diagnosis and recommended a chemotherapy cocktail called FOLFIRI (folinic acid, fluorouracil, and irinotecan). Lawrence has received 19 rounds of it so far, and the results are promising.
“I’m down to three small spots of cancer now, with one pressing against my bladder and two others in my stomach lining,” he says.
Family cancer history matters
Lawrence continues to fly back to Houston every other week for his treatments. He also encourages everyone he knows to learn more about their family’s cancer history.
“Finding out about your family history is super important,” he says. “I did a comprehensive family tree after I was diagnosed, and learned that on my father’s side, two aunts died of lung cancer, a 2-year-old niece died of sarcoma, and both grandparents died of colorectal cancer. If I’d known that sooner, I might have been able to avoid all this by getting screened earlier.”