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Do Not Ignore This Colon Cancer Sign

Monday, March 14, 2022 12:27 PM

Chris's Story 
By Colette Urban

Chris Dean Chris Dean had his first colonoscopy in February 2020 after finding blood in his stools.

As someone with no family history who exercised regularly and ate a healthy diet, the Buffalo Grove father of three initially wrote it off as hemorrhoids.

"I didn't really have any other symptoms," Dean said. But when the blood got brighter, and there was more of it, he saw his primary care provider who referred him to Northwest Community Healthcare  Medical Group gastroenterologist Nikos Christopoulos, MD.

A colonoscopy detected a stage 3 cancerous tumor that had spread to the lymph nodes.

"The diagnosis scared my entire family at first," Dean said. "But that didn't last long as we focused on getting through the process and putting it behind us."

Five weeks of combined chemotherapy with radiation ensued. Dean then underwent robotic surgery with NCH Medical Group colorectal surgeon Scott Pinchot, MD, who removed the tumor and the associated lymph nodes.

Dean had just started radiation treatment when the pandemic hit and Covid-19 testing and screening was added to the mix. "I never had any delays in my care," he said. "The care team helped me through the whole process."

Dean also had a temporary ileostomy bag for six months until he completed further chemotherapy after his surgery. "I'm very thankful they were able to reverse that," he said. "Prior to surgery, there was a chance that it could have been permanent."

Two years later, the 49-year-old is happy to share his story with the hope that it may motivate others who are reluctant to make an appointment for a colonoscopy screening.

"The first time, yeah, I was pretty nervous," Dean said. "The actual procedure is nothing, you go in and get knocked out, and then it's over. The hard part is the prep, but it sure is a lot easier than facing a cancer diagnosis and going through radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. A couple of hours of discomfort is worth it."

Chris is still undergoing pelvic floor physical therapy and follows up with visits to hematologist/oncologist Urszula Sobol, MD.


Debbie’s Story
By Debbie Rediger

I routinely hit the gym and have always had a healthy diet so when I started experiencing slight rectal bleeding, the last thing on my mind was colon cancer. Besides, I was only 53 years old and had no history of cancer in my family.

I came to the conclusion, with a little help from Google, that I had hemorrhoids.

Over several months in 2019, the bleeding became worse, but I did not have any other colon cancer symptoms. No bloating, no pain, no unusual bowel movements. I debated whether or not I should get a colonoscopy. Just the thought of going through the unpleasant preparation necessary before a colonoscopy prevented me from calling a doctor.

Then, in late 2019, my uncle was diagnosed with colon cancer and I started to freak out a bit. I decided it was time to see a gastroenterologist.

On Christmas Eve of 2020, I left my home in Lake Zurich and had my first colonoscopy. The doctor found a polyp that was too large to be removed right then. I was referred to Dr. Willis Parsons, a gastroenterologist with Northwest Community Healthcare. He was able to remove the polyp. The pathology of the polyp showed cancer so surgical consultation was recommended.

Dr. Scott Pinchot, a colorectal surgeon with Northwest Community Healthcare, who had to remove part of my colon, told me I had Stage 3 cancer and that one lymph node was involved. That was my nightmare.

My husband, children, and friends were very supportive and got me through some very difficult times.

I just went for my CT scan in December and they did not see any cancer, and I had a colonoscopy in January and everything looked fine. I pray every day that it stays fine and doesn’t come back with a vengeance.

If I could save one person from going through what I went through, I would be so grateful. Even if you think you have hemorrhoids, get it checked out. Tell your doctors, even if you don’t have a family history of cancer.