A WhatNexter's Fight - Colon Cancer - Still Standing After Surgery, Chemo, Radiation

by GregP_WN

WhatNexter of The Week RobieFlores' Story 

Hi, my name is Robert Anthony Flores, but you can call me Robbie. In December of 2011 I told my primary Dr. that I thought I had a hemorrhoid , I had blood in my stool, and that I also had a cyst on my bottom left buttock. I'm a meat cutter, and I had no obvious symptoms. No lack of appetite, no fatigue. 

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So my Dr. attempted to remove my cyst , he tried for two hours took out what he could and sewed me up. 10 days later I go back to have the stitches removed and we have the talk. The cyst came back from the lab, I had colorectal cancer. He had taken the liberty of making an appointment with my surgeon, Dr. Anita Gregory. We met two days later. She in turn set me up with my oncologist, Dr. Tariq Mahmood and my radiologist, Dr. Robert Ash. I was being fast tracked . "Highly unusual" was the comment made by all three doctors. My colon was surrounded by cancer and the tumor that would have normally grown straight up into my internal organs had instead grown down along my sphincter and rectum and out through the skin of my left buttock. So low that I was going about my business, working , playing, and not aware that I had cancer. 

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So my Dream Team got together to plan my treatment. I started with 6 rounds of chemo . Infusion on a Tuesday , I would leave with a chemo pump attached to my picc line, then go back three days later to have it removed. Repeat this every two weeks. I'll just say this right now, I have all the paperwork at home in my folder. I read through it. I'm just not very up on the details. All I was focused on was being the best patient I could be. Listening to my doctors and nurses, I didn't even ask what stage I was until I met with my surgeon. Which was after I completed radiation. I figured whether it was stage 1, 2, 3 or 4 I couldn't do anything about that, it was just a number, Focus.

After my chemo ended I went right into radiation. No break. 25 rounds of radiation. And this time I was connected to the chemo pump 24/7. After that marathon they gave my body a break and I met with my surgeon. She told me I was going to have a permanent colostomy. This is when I went into shock. No one had told me. My radiologist had hinted, but this was the first I had heard that it was for sure. Permanent.

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After I recovered from surgery it was determined that I would do 12 more rounds of chemo . To be on the safe side. Another marathon.
After my surgery , when I came home I finally realized how bad my cancer was. Staples from my navel to my pelvis area, my bum was completely stitched . I was a mess, apparently my urethra was damaged during radiation or during surgery. I was attached to a Foley catheter for 8 weeks, then because I couldn't take it anymore, they inserted a supra-pubic catheter, for 5 more weeks and it finally healed. Also one of my stitches didn't disintegrate, so for 5 weeks I was attached to a wound vac. My surgeon finally went in and removed the rogue stitch..
On the flip side of all this I can say that I received so much support. From friends and family, of course. But I write in my book about friends on social media that were there for me, every step of the way.

Up until this point in my life I had gone through a couple of rough times. My parents divorce, my divorce, but going through all this with cancer, I never knew how tough I was mentally. Like I write, I couldn't control the physical aspect of my treatment, but I had to do the best job with my mental state. I was in such a zone, totally in a Warrior frame of mind.

In June of 2013 I had a Pet Scan and it showed no cancer. I went back to work, I'm as productive as ever, and I see my oncologist every 3 months, so far so good.

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As I said earlier social media was a big help. I followed three women on Twitter who, while going through treatment kept a daily account of how they were doing. They inspired me to blog about my experience, and an independent publisher saw my blog and felt it would make a good book. He also mentioned the proceeds could go to charity, that sold me. Win Win. Not too many books on the shelf about a male Latino telling in detail about his treatment, and about his emotions, It's a raw account of what I went through.
Because my diagnosis was so unusual I was looking for a mentor, a friend, someone who was going through what I was going through. That's how I found the WhatNext community. I always recommend WhatNext when I meet someone who is diagnosed with cancer. This is a great way to learn and to share, it's Priceless.

You can follow Robbie on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook

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