March 3, 2017

Surviving Colorectal Cancer – One Man’s Journey

At first, Anthony Moore of Asheville didn’t think the abdominal pain and diarrhea he was experiencing was anything serious.

“I wrote it off for a week or so, but it probably went on for two-plus weeks,” he said. “And I was overdue for my annual physical.”

After having some blood work done, the results showed he was anemic. Concerned he might be losing blood internally, his doctor referred him to a gastroenterologist for an endoscopy and colonoscopy. “At that point, our working theory was that I probably either had diverticulitis or had developed an ulcer, because my father had an issue with that,” said Moore, who was 44 at the time.

During the colonoscopy, a polyp was found and removed — but there was also a mass. “They were fairly certain it was cancer, but we had to get the pathology report back,” he said. “But they knew it was something that needed to come out, so they scheduled me for a CT scan.”

“After a biopsy shows colorectal cancer, imaging studies are performed, either chest X-ray and CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis or CT scan of the chest, abdomen and pelvis,” said Pierre DeMatos, MD, of Regional Surgical Specialists in Asheville. “Blood tests to assess general organ function and to measure the blood level of the colorectal cancer tumor marker, carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), are also ordered.”

Rollercoaster of Emotions

While Moore was waiting for his CT scan, he received confirmation that the mass was cancerous. “The ironic thing was that the next morning we were leaving on a family trip to Disney World®,” he said, “so there was really no time to process [the diagnosis], and in some ways that was good.”

“We spent the week at Disney World having a great time, but my wife was really struggling, not sleeping well,” said Moore. “She hid some of that from me because she was just concerned, awake during the night.”

While on vacation, Moore received a call from Dr. DeMatos, who told him the CT scan had revealed a spot on his liver. “We were making plans for a November surgery [to remove the mass], but in the meantime they scheduled me for an MRI to get more information on the liver spot and clarify things.”

Following the MRI, Moore received some good news: the spot was a benign vascular growth. “It was amazing, because the next logical location for colon cancer to go is typically the liver,” he said.

The MRI, however, had found a growth on his spleen. “They were 98 percent sure it was lymphoma,” said Moore. “I said, ‘So you’re telling me I have two different types of cancer?’”

A Stressful Season

In November, Moore had a laparoscopic hemicolectomy, in which 11 inches of his colon was removed. The cancer had entered his colon wall, but had not gone beyond. “It had not metastasized, so it was technically a stage II diagnosis, which was a great relief,” he said.

“Resection of colorectal cancer is done through surgery, either laparoscopic [smaller incisions] or open [one large incision], and may require a temporary colostomy [colon is brought out to the skin],” said Dr. DeMatos. “Over time, patients get stronger progressively and most are back to normal in about 4-6 weeks, possibly earlier for patients for whom laparoscopic surgery was feasible.”

After a PET scan, it was determined Moore should have his spleen removed. “So in January [2016] I had a splenectomy,” he said.

Miraculously, said Moore, the growth on his spleen was benign as well. “It was a large growth so I don’t regret taking it out. It was just peace of mind to know that it was taken care of.”

The hemicolectomy and splenectomy were both performed laparoscopically by Dr. DeMatos. “I had such a great experience, not only from the surgical standpoint, but from the hospital standpoint because it was such a stressful season in our life as things kind of ebbed and flowed and kept going from one crisis to another crisis, to finding out things were okay,” said Moore.

Following surgery, Moore elected to do oral chemotherapy. “That ended in August 2016,” he said. “I had fantastic care from Mission Cancer Care throughout the process. My energy level has returned, and I really do feel like I’m back to 100 percent now.” He continues to monitor his health through blood work and appointments every three months.

Very Fortunate

Moore admitted that he is “very type-A” where preventative medicine is concerned and realizes the difference six years could have made, with the recommendations of having the first colonoscopy at age 50. “I was only 44 when it happened — colonoscopy wasn’t even on my radar,” he said. “Six years was probably the difference between stage II and stage IV for me, I would guess. I was very fortunate.”

“The biggest takeaway for me is that you have to pay attention to your body and what it’s saying to you. If it starts doing something abnormal, really pay attention,” said Moore. “The diagnosis and that process was really, really difficult, but the care I received made it as good as it could have been. I’m just very thankful for that.”

Pierre DeMatos, MD, is a general surgeon at Regional Surgical Specialists in Asheville. (828) 252-3366

Cancer patients in the Franklin area can find support at the state-of-the-art Angel Cancer & Infusion Center, located at 834 Depot St. Services include:

  • Chemotherapy and supportive therapy
  • IV infusion
  • Blood transfusions
  • Long-term antibiotic therapy
  • Intra-muscular injection therapy
  • Fluids for hydration
  • Peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) line insertions and maintenance

For more information about the center, call (828) 349-6900.