My Cancer Story, So Far

Father’s Day will never be the same for my family and me. On the Friday of Father’s Day weekend 2021, I went for a colonoscopy and received some life altering news: I had a large tumour in the sigmoid section of my colon that was so big, my colon was almost completely obstructed. I was told that I required emergency colon resection surgery. Things quickly went from bad to worse from there. Additional testing over the next few days confirmed the worst news possible: the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and to my liver, which had 23 metastatic cancer tumours on it. The tumours on my liver were inoperable. I was told my cancer was Stage 4 and given only a 20% chance of survival. As a devoted husband and father to two teenage boys, this news was devastating for us all. But I wasn’t going to just give up and accept my diagnosis as fate. I was going to fight and win.

When you are told you have cancer, you feel as though you no longer have control over your life. And while that might feel true in a lot of ways, I also knew there was one thing that cancer could NOT control: my mindset. Only I have the power to control that; no one else. I immediately decided that I would never allow my cancer to dictate my outlook and my attitude. So why not choose an attitude of gratitude, and a positive mindset, and believe that I can beat my cancer? After all, someone has to be in that 20% survivor group, so why not me?

My colon resection surgery was a success, and the surgeon was able to remove all of the cancerous lymph nodes as well. After a period of recovery from my surgery, I began chemotherapy treatments in August 2021, and shortly thereafter, antibody therapy with Panitumumab was added as an additional treatment. My body responded positively to the treatments: the tumours on my liver began to shrink, and repeated scans confirmed that the cancer had not spread anywhere else in my body. In March 2022, I joined the Hepatic Artery Infusion Pump Chemotherapy Program at Sunnybrook Hospital. This is an innovative clinical trial in which a surgically implanted pump infuses additional chemotherapy directly into the patient’s liver while they are also receiving traditional chemotherapy at the same time. As of July 2022, after four months on the HAI pump, scans confirm that I only have eight tumours left on my liver (down from 23 at the time of diagnosis!) and that I may be on track for a “complete response” – meaning my treatments could completely eliminate the remaining tumours without any additional interventions.

I was almost a full year into my cancer journey before I learned of CCRAN’s existence. When I finally did connect with Filomena, I could tell within minutes of our conversation that she and her team at CCRAN are dedicated to ensuring colorectal cancer patients have the support and access to critical information they need. Having navigated that first year on my own without the incredible support offered by CCRAN, I can say unequivocally that my life would have been much easier had I known about CCRAN and reached out for support right from the get-go! Every new colorectal cancer patient should join CCRAN.

Steve Slack