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Need Hope

Posts: 11
Joined: Feb 2004

Hello Everyone,

My husband Jonathan has rectal cancer and recently underwent surgery to remove the tumor. He went through neoadjuvent therapy prior to the surgery and we were informed that all his CT scans were clear of any disease. However, when we went to the oncologists office yesterday to hear the results of the pathology report we were given the following news. Nine lymph nodes were involved. We are truly frightened and feel hopeless. The doctor said the reason it didn't show up on the CT scan was because it was microscopic. My husband is to do follow-up treatment with Folfox and radiation. Can he still be cancer free after the treatment?

Posts: 185
Joined: Feb 2004

Kelli, Did the patholog reprot indicate cancer cells in the lymph nodes or just that it was suspected they had been involved? I had rectal cancer at the age of 36, and my preoperative chmeoradiation wiped out all of the tumor and cells. However, my Dr. indicated that he was quite certain of lymph node involvement prior to that treatment, but the preoperative treatment just "melted" those nodes. I was treated with 6 months of post-surgery chemotherapy, although no more radiation. That was 5 years ago! Yes, you can still be cancer free even if there was lymph node involvement...that is what that Folfox treatment (even better than what I had) is for. Dr.'s always assume the worst when fighting cancer, let them. Your husband will do fine. Concentrate on recovering from surgery and getting his balance in life back...then let his body and the treatment take care of the rest!

Posts: 232
Joined: Apr 2003

I am sorry that your husband's tumor was more extensive than expected. It is scary enough to be faced with the diagnosis of cancer, but to have unexpected twists is expecially frightening. Stage 3 disease is still potentually curable, however.

When rectal carcinomas are removed, the surgeons routinely remove the rectal mass together with the sheet of tissue around it surrounding the small lymph nodes next to the rectum. In this way it is possible, even if the lymph nodes contain tumor that everything has been completely removed. Since there is more risk of some tumor cells escaping when local lymph nodes are involved however, chemotherapy is generally recommended. I suspect you will hear from some sucessful long term survivors of stage 3 disease (as well as stage 4 disease) here soon.

I am curious if your husband received radiation therapy as part of neoadjuvent therapy pre operatively. Typically post operative treatment includes chemotherapy, but not additional radiation therapy.

Best wishes for a smooth and sucessful treatment.


Lisa Rose's picture
Lisa Rose
Posts: 597
Joined: Mar 2003

Hi Jonathan & Kelli,

First I want to give you both a Big Warm Welcome To The Semi- Colon Club. I'm so sorry you guys had to become a member here. However it's a great place to come to seek help with your diagnosis and all your concerns.

My name is Lisa and I am a stage 3 rectal cancer survivor. My surgery took place March 20, 2002.... The morning of my surgery I had a CT Scan and an MRI that showed the cancer in 1 lymph node and like Jonathan it turned out to be in 10 nodes. So I know how you feel, I really do. As hard as it is right now it will get better, trust me . You guys have to stay strong and keep positive thought's only !

If I can help in any way please feel free to drop me a line.


Tessyann's picture
Posts: 56
Joined: Apr 2004

Hi Kelli my name is Teresa and my husband Ben has been battling stage 3 colon cancer for 11 years now.
Your last sentence in your post caught my eye... can he ever be cancer free again (Maybe) is there still life with cancer YES!!!!!. I remember those early days when Ben was first DX. I was 32 with 3 kids ages 1,5 and 9 at the time.. cancer to me always meant death I found out how wrong I was... sure many do die but other continue to live. Since Ben first dx he had 4 surgeries. Matter of fact he just had another one May 5th and is coming home tomorrow they totally removed his rectum this time.. Hes had many rounds of chemo... some not so bad other made him pretty sick... hes had radiation... he had a colostomy since 98..and let see now our kids are 12,17 and 21 :) and in between we had a wonderful life...My husband will once again be starting treatment as soon as he recovers we dont even know yet how many nodes are involved this time... his colon surgeon told me today tho she like to speak to us about that... so I sure its not great news but.. we face it when that step comes.
But I just wanted to give you and your hubby hope.

nanuk's picture
Posts: 1362
Joined: Dec 2003

microscopic is good..I am 4th stage, or more accurately, recurrent rectal cancer in the lungs.(over 20, 1-3mm) I am halfway throu folfox 6
and some nodules are gone, and others have shrunk)
more important is your husband's attitude; it is our only string sometimes, and we have to play on it, each day.. bud

ron50's picture
Posts: 1729
Joined: Nov 2001

Hi Kelli,sorry about hubby's worse than expected results,I know the feeling,I lost most of my descending colon as well as 6 crook nodes plus the tumour was regarded as highly aggressive. Unfortunately they cannot use rad on colon ca as it is almost impossible to target so I had chemo every tuesday for a year. I was operated on in jan 98 and have been ca free ever since as a matter of fact my surgeon told me in Jan lst year that that tumour is officially cured ,I just have to be vigilant for any new primaries,good luck for the future Ron.

kangatoo's picture
Posts: 2115
Joined: Feb 2004

Hiya Kelli and Jonathan--hey--welcome to the room---sorry it is not under better circumstances but you came to the right place guys.
Our very best to yu both
luv n huggs --kanga n Jen

"upside down land--vegemite n rooster kangas"

Posts: 3
Joined: May 2004

hi kelli! i know how scared you must be. my father has colon cancer too and he underwent colon surgery over a year ago and found out that it had spread to his lungs. he had surgery on both lungs at duke... the last being in november. his CEA levels were down to .3 after surgery and now they are climing up to 6. we are concerned about him as well but until we know why they are climbing, we are trying to stay positive. you need to keep faith that just as things took a turn for the worse, they can just as quickly become positive again. i will be thinking about you and your husband.


Posts: 1961
Joined: Aug 2003

Hi Kelli. I am sorry you had this unexpected news about the lymph nodes. I was diagnosed with rectal cancer December 2002. I had neoadjuvant therapy (chemoradiation) before surgery. My surgical biopsy results showed one affected lymph node. I had chemotherapy after surgery. I probably would have had the post-surgical chemo anyway (even if no lymph node involvement), because my tumour had invaded the wall fairly deeply, and my doctors are pretty conservative (ie aggressive!) - as am I. I have had regular tests since my treatment finished and ALL CLEAR. As I'm sure you know, chemotherapy is specially designed to get rid of any possible micrometastises which cannot be detected by any test.

I wish you and your husband Jonathan every good wish as you continue the battle. Please let me share with you a quote which I copied down from a book (and I forgot to write down the source!) -- "A 'survivor' is anyone living with a history of cancer - from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life". I certainly think of myself as a Survivor -- and I think of your Jonathan that way too.


Posts: 10
Joined: May 2004

Thank you to everyone for your replies to Kelli. My mother is going through almost the exact same the thing. She started with 5 weeks of Chemoradiation which was followed by surgery to remove the tumor. After surgery last week we were told that 9/16 of the lymph nodes removed had microscopic cancer cells in them. This really knocked our spirits down as we were extremely positive before the surgery since all of her previous tests showed nothing in the nodes. Thank you to all of you for restoring some of that optimism for me.

My mom (Age 56 and diagnosed in Feb. with rectal cancer) will be starting the Folfox regimine in a few weeks. (I am not sure exactly what number it is). She will be the first in her city to have this done, so we really do not know what to expect. Any additional information you can give would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again!

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