3 lessons to be learned from Michael’s story

 

New miraculous drugs against colon cancer are being discovered and tested in clinical trials as we speak.

Here’s one example: 

Michael’s story:

Just a few months ago, in June 2019, at the age of 57, Michael felt unwell with low-grade fever, loss of appetite and diarrhea. At that time, he was in Portugal on vacation with his wife and thought he might have simply caught a virus. But these nondescript symptoms persisted. 

So he found a doctor who gave him a five-day course of antibiotics. The fever went down but he still had diarrhea. A few days later, having reached Lisbon, his symptoms got worse: his diarrhea became bloody, he had intestinal cramps, and he felt—and could see—a mass in his right upper abdomen below the ribs. Alarmed, he went to a local hospital in Lisbon. A CT scan was performed that detected a tumor in his right colon.  

Was it cancerous? Maybe not because Michael’s last colonoscopy three and a half years prior was clear and he had no history of colon cancer in his family.  

But since Michael needed surgery to remove the tumor, he flew back home to Boston and had surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital. 

 It turned out that Michael’s tumor was a large cancerous one with a diameter of about 10 centimeters completely blocking the right upper colon. Eight out of 10 lymph nodes were positive for cancer, making it stage 3C. Fortunately, there were no other metastasis.  A PET/CT scan showed no other tumors or hot spots. The prognosis was not bad at that time. Michael began chemotherapy with FOLFOX, the gold standard in this situation.

Yet, after surgery and six weeks of chemotherapy, suddenly, while doing yoga, Michael felt a stabbing pain in his right lower ribs.  He went straight to the hospital.  Another CT scan was performed. It showed that despite surgery and aggressive chemo, there were more than 12 liver metastasis in addition to a cracked rib (which was the one responsible for Michael’s stabbing pain). This was now metastatic colon cancer, stage 4.

Originally Published on Psychology Today

© Dr. Chris Gilbert, MD, PhD

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