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El Camino Hospital and Me

Jean's Story: Rectal Cancer

Although Jean has a family history of cancer, like most people, she never wanted to think about the fact that it could possibly happen to her, too. So when she started feeling some unusual symptoms in early 2011, she blamed it on eating too much over the holidays and tried to ignore it.

But, after a trip to the ER in February 2011, Jean was diagnosed with rectal cancer. Her oncologist, Shane Dormady, MD, planned a month-long course of treatment with chemotherapy and radiation, which would then be followed by surgery.

Once Jean had recovered from her initial treatment and was well enough for surgery, the surgical team prepared her for the operation to remove her tumor, which, fortunately, had not spread to any other part of her body. The first step was to perform a colostomy (bringing one end of the large intestine out through the abdominal wall), then remove the tumor. However, once the surgeon looked at Jean's tumor, he was unsure if it could be removed because it appeared to be growing on Jean's tailbone.

Because El Camino Hospital's Cancer Center has a tumor board, which is brought in on complicated cases, the board (led by cancer surgeon Shyamali Singhal, MD) was convened to discuss Jean's case. Dr. Singhal and the board told Jean that the cancer was, in fact, operable and that she had performed similar operations in the past.

To be absolutely sure that operating was the right decision, Jean consulted a second tumor board, which agreed with Dr. Singhal. So, on June 21, 2011, Dr. Singhal, along with Al Pisani, MD, and Augusto Bastidas, MD, operated and successfully removed the entire tumor. Jean was thrilled.

Although there were some complications a few months later with her small intestine that required additional surgery, along with an unrelated diagnosis of an early-stage lung cancer. Both were treated with a short-form, targeted radiation known as CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery. Jean today has returned to her normal life and is doing amazingly well.

What she recalls most about her El Camino Hospital experience is how encouraging both Dr. Dormady and Dr. Singhal were throughout the entire year-long ordeal.

"A positive attitude is so important," says Jean. "Believe it or not, we even laughed together at times," because with a diagnosis of cancer, sometimes it helps to have those lighter moments to combat all the seriousness of the disease.

"I also donated $5,000 in support of the El Camino Hospital Cancer Center," adds Jean, who also gives high praise for the oncology nurses who cared for her on the 4th floor of the main hospital.

"They are unsung heroes, too," she says. "The whole nursing team, especially the nursing assistants (CNAs), worked so hard to take care of me. They were wonderful."

Thank you for sharing your story, Jean. We wish you all the best.