Patient Stories

Anal Cancer Survivor

Wan-li Wong

  • Diagnosed with Stage IV anal cancer at age 58
  • Traveled to SCCA from San Francisco for care
  • Cured with chemotherapy treatment
Having beat the odds of surviving a very rare cancer, maybe it’s time for Wan-li Wong to buy himself a lottery ticket. 

The treatment wasn’t easy – it rarely is with cancer. But the fact that Wan-li has “way out-lived the median survival” for his disease, according to SCCA medical oncologist, Dr. Anthony Back, means that Wan-li is “doing amazingly well.”

Diagnosed in January 2006 at age of 58, Wan-li says it was swollen lymph nodes in his legs that made him seek out a doctor. He’s never had cancer before this and there’s no cancer in his family. “I’m always doing health-conscious things, too,” he says. So the diagnosis of anal cancer, which is a very rare disease, was a bit surprising to him and his family.

“I didn’t have an emotional breakdown when I found out,” Wan-li says. “I just decided then and there that it was something I was going to have to take care of.”

Wan-li came to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance from San Francisco at the recommendation of family and friends who live in Seattle; he came here for six months to have treatment and lived with his brother.

His cancer was Stage IV. Estimates for his survival were only months. Dr. Back gave Wan-li aggressive treatment, which meant 25 sessions of outpatient chemotherapy as well as wearing a portable chemotherapy pump which he wore five days a week. The treatment to Wan-li was like going to “Hell and back,” he says, but he doesn’t regret it one bit.

“In retrospect, what I thought was just hemorrhoids was probably an early sign,” Wan-li says. But Dr. Back says it is very difficult to know when you have this rare form of cancer.

“We were surprised to see Wan-li here at SCCA with this cancer; It’s that rare,” says Dr. Back, who believes Wan-li’s ability to balance hope and the reality of his situation has helped him in regaining his good health.

“I am so thankful for every day. I live for every day and I definitely appreciate life more, in every way,” says Wan-li, who works with Asian Art and is an artist himself.

“I hope there is a cure. I hope that everyone is well and will be well – that’s what I think every time I visit SCCA.”

Not every person’s story has a happy ending, Wan-li says, but for now he’s happy to indulge in all that he loves.

Information about anal cancer can be found at The National Cancer Institute.