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Colon Cancer Survivor

Cathy Sutton

  • photo of Cathy SuttonTreated with surgery for stage I colon cancer in her hometown
  • Diagnosed and treated at SCCA for stage IV metastatic colon cancer
  • Continues to take Xeloda and Avastin
  • Facing second metastasis summer of 2012 with a smile

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance has become Cathy Sutton’s second home.

“My father insisted that I come here before he died in 2009,” Cathy says. She and her father had both developed colon cancer at about the same time. “He made me promise.”

Before Cathy’s father died of melanoma that year, he’d been diagnosed with colon cancer as well. Cathy’s grandmother had died of liver cancer years before. It was logical that all six of Cathy’s brothers and sisters get colonoscopies at age 50.

“I was the only one with stage I colon cancer. I wasn’t symptomatic, either,” she says.

At that time Cathy was treated with surgery in her hometown and told she was cured. But her father, who was very familiar with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, told her that good things were happening here and that she should follow-up on her colon cancer at SCCA.

“SCCA has a beautiful site and when my sisters and I first walked in, hand-in-hand all together, we were amazed at the view,” she says.

Diagnosis

Cathy saw an expert in gastrointestinal cancers at SCCA in 2009. “They ran some tests and found that the markers for cancer were very high in my body. They found my colon cancer was not cured at all and in fact had metastasized to my liver and at least one lymph node,” she says.

Her physician was “very good,” she says. “I felt hopeless and scared. I had two adult children and an 80 year-old mother and my husband who depended on me. Now everyone turned around to take care of me.”

A registered nurse at Harborview Medical Center, Cathy found great empathy and caring in the nursing staff at SCCA. “They were so… I can’t say enough. They were my brothers and sisters,” she says.

Treatment

Faced with stage IV colon cancer now, Cathy hunkered down and began a three-month chemotherapy regimen. “They banged me with everything,” she says.

Professing to be a meticulous person, Cathy says she had to relax a little and let people help her during her treatment.

Then James O. Park, MD, surgical oncologist, removed half of her liver and found more cancer on her diaphragm. “But he told me that he got it all,” Cathy says. “He smiled at me and gave me a positive outlook.”

She knew she had to be a stellar patient, so Cathy got up and moved around after surgery.

“I went home and got so sick… I was back in the hospital 24 hours later,” she says.

After she recovered from surgery, Cathy went back on chemotherapy and is now on a daily dose of Xeloda and receives Avastin every three weeks.

Follow-Up

“I’m surviving longer than most people do,” Cathy says. For which she is grateful, of course. She enjoys working as a nurse, playing golf on a couple of women’s teams, and feeling healthy!

“I want to be optimistic that my cancer is gone,” she says. “My experience at SCCA has been awesome. It’s helped me understand what suffering is and I give more back to my patients and I’m a better healthcare provider now.”

When she isn’t working, playing golf, or hanging around SCCA, Cathy receives comfort and strength in a support group for women who have metastatic cancer. “We help support each other as friends, know that death is imminent. It helps me not wear my family out,” Cathy says.

Her only wish is that she’d come to SCCA sooner.

“My original doctor put off a follow-up CT scan at my two-year visit. At SCCA, they are more aggressive.”

At Cathy's three-month visit in summer 2012, three small metastatic lesions were found on a PET scan (positron emission tomography).

"My medical team indicated they are very small, but the plan is to be very aggressive with the treatment," Cathy says. "Once again, my SCCA team has given me hope and their full support through this backward step."

She is still smiling. She'll retart a strong chemo treatment regimen and continue on. "My goal is to stay alive so I can spend my own retirement,” she says.

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