Walt Wilson is an active man. He owns a small business and he is passionate about flying.
Early in 2000, he began experiencing some GI symptoms. But they were intermittent and like most of us would do, he brushed it off to a passing difficulty. Then his physician found, through routine blood tests, that he was very anemic. A colonoscopy was ordered.
The test revealed the presence of a tumor in his colon. A follow-up CT gave doctors the impression that it had spread. In July 2000, Walt underwent surgery to remove the tumor and the surrounding lymph nodes. Luckily they showed that the cancer had not metastasized.
Walt underwent surgery in September and a sample of his tumor was sent immediately to Rational Therapeutics for functional profiling testing in order to find the most effective colon cancer treatment options. This is what Walt would like others with cancer to know about his experience.
“When I learned I had cancer, I did research. A good friend of mine told me about Rational Therapeutics and Dr. Robert Nagourney in Long Beach, California. Before I had surgery, I went to see Dr. Nagourney and decided that having my tumor tested to determine which chemotherapy would provide the most effective course of treatment was definitely the way to go.
The complication is that I live in Orange County, not very far from Long Beach. But my surgeon preferred I go to a more local oncologist – someone he knew. This oncologist wanted me to have a course of radiation followed by the standard chemotherapy protocol for colon cancer. I wanted otherwise. The surgeon was very resistant to my plan, but eventually came around.
On the day of my surgery, while I was waiting in the pre-op area chatting with the nurses, I was fully prepared for what lay ahead. With me on the gurney was the tumor sample kit supplied by Rational Therapeutics.
When a nurse arrived from surgery to take me to the OR, she asked what the kit was. I explained its purpose and she responded very negatively. ‘We can’t take that into the OR,’ was her reply. ‘Yes, you can,’ was mine. We went back and forth and I became a bit agitated. I made it clear that if the kit didn’t go with me and get sent off with the sample needed, then I wasn’t having surgery.
The pre-op nurses finally pulled her aside because their patient (me) was supposed to be relaxing, keeping my blood pressure low, etc. They got the OR nurse to agree to let the doctor decide. Soon the surgeon came in and assured her that he knew about the kit and there was no problem to bring it into the room.
So, if I have anything to tell someone who is battling cancer, it is this:
1. Do your homework
2. Take charge of your care and don’t let anyone push you around – stick to your guns!
3. I took charge and I’m doing just great 15 years later."