The Nice family has always been concerned cancer might revisit their mother, Mary Lou, a long-time breast cancer survivor. They were stunned, however, to learn that their father, John, has an advanced form of colon cancer.
The vibrant, 67-year-old, East Greenville man, who when diagnosed still worked full time as a car salesman, is the picture of health. He has always maintained an active lifestyle and watched what he ate.
John received his first colonoscopy on April 17. Test results showed he had colon cancer. A few days later, he received a CT scan and an MRI, which strongly suggested the disease had metastasized to his liver. “It was a shock,” said his daughter, Cherie Evans. “He was never sick. He never even took an aspirin. He looks like he’s 50.”
Following the diagnosis, John’s family doctor suggested he see surgeon Gary S. Finkelstein, MD. Within a week, Dr. Finkelstein performed surgery to remove the diseased portion of his colon. At that time, he did a liver biopsy and confirmed the cancer had spread to the liver.
A few weeks later, with his recovery from colon surgery well under way, it was time to treat the liver cancer with chemotherapy. John’s oncologist, Alan C. Kaufman, MD, conferred with Patti Parsons, Grand View’s Oncology Clinical Research Coordinator, who suggested John would be a good candidate for a clinical research trial. The trial involves standard chemotherapy and two of the newer target drug therapies. Targeted drug therapy interferes with the ability of cancer cells to grow, divide, repair or communicate with other cells. Because it attacks cancer cells without damaging normal cells, targeted therapy has fewer side effects.
The therapy is working. A recent CT scan showed the larger tumors on the liver have shrunk and the smaller ones have disappeared. John will continue his treatment until November, when he will meet again with Dr. Kaufman to determine the next course of action.
John, who has taken a leave of absence from work, receives one chemotherapy treatment each week. Then he retreats with his wife, Mary Lou, and other family members to their mountain home in Lycoming County, where he enjoys sitting by the pond, fishing, bird watching and four-wheeling.
“He’s more tired than usual and has lost 20 pounds,” Cherie said. It has been an emotional experience for her usually happy-go-lucky father. He regrets postponing the colonoscopy, now recommended at age 50. “I figured I didn’t need one,” he said. “It wasn’t in the family, and I didn’t have any symptoms. Now I tell everyone to get the test early. Don’t wait. Early detection is everything.”
Throughout the experience, Mary Lou has been by his side, understanding what he is going through as only another cancer survivor can. In 1988, Mary Lou was diagnosed with breast cancer on one side; a year later, it reappeared in her other breast.
Mary Lou understands the anxiety and depression an impending treatment or test can bring. She empathizes with John when he withdraws, knowing when to leave him alone and when to reach out and comfort him. “We’re very hopeful for the future,” she said. “It is our strong faith in God and prayers from many friends that have helped us through these difficult times.”