NASHVILLE — Larry Freeland, a type 2 diabetic, was no stranger to battling disease. When he spotted rectal bleeding, he quickly called his physician who scheduled a colonoscopy.
The test found colorectal cancer. Surgery was scheduled, and the cancer was removed. However, Freeland’s battle with another incurable disease was only beginning.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both genders in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. The organization estimates 96,830 new cases of colon cancer and 40,000 new cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2014. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. The goal for the month is to “tell the world that colon cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable,” according to the Colon Cancer Alliance.
Freeland’s story is a perfect example of how colorectal cancer is “preventable, treatable and beatable.” His cancer has gone into remission but recurred several times since his diagnosis. He relies on Tennessee Oncology, one of the nation’s leading teams of cancer care specialists, to help him battle the disease. Chemotherapy, radiation and surgery are some treatments Dr. Dianna Shipley has recommended throughout Freeland’s cancer care.
“The cancer would go away, but it would come back. I made it through every experience fine. I am thankful to be alive. I am also thankful to everyone at Tennessee Oncology, especially Dr. Shipley. She is an outstanding physician. She was upfront with me but promised to do everything she could for me,” said Freeland.
Currently, Freeland’s colorectal cancer is in remission again. A CT scan showed no cancer in his liver, an organ greatly affected by recurring cancer in the past. Freeland is only battling a small spot in his lung. Shipley believes more chemotherapy will soon diminish the spot.
“Larry’s had cancer for 10 years, but he takes the situation in stride. His optimism never fades. I wish more cancer patients would adopt his positive spirit. Maintaining hope can make a tremendous difference in the fight against cancer,” said Shipley.
Cancer recurrence can be scary for survivors. While recurrence is a possibility, “the odds of a cancer recurring depend on many factors…” according to the ACS. If colorectal cancer is recurring, then there is still an impressive, improving chance of survival. “The death rate (the number of deaths per 100,000 people per year) from colorectal cancer has been dropping…for more than 20 years,” reports the ACS.
“I volunteer to talk with patients because I want to give them hope. Yes, they have been diagnosed with an incurable disease, but they cannot let the disease dictate the way their lives are lived. I tell them to maintain a bright outlook and a positive attitude. Be thankful for life, and live life day-to-day. Listen to the doctor, too—he or she will be a great ally,” said Freeland.
Tennessee Oncology employs 80 physicians in 30 locations throughout Middle Tennessee, Chattanooga and northwest Georgia.