Ken Porter never thought he'd end up signing up for tests that will outline his battle plan against stage 3 colon cancer.
In a screening test, doctors found a cancerous tumor Ken's colon, which is part of the large intestine. The colon helps push waste from the body. The lining is a prime spot for polyps or tiny growths to develop.
Ken had a polyp that was so big, doctors knew it was cancerous. Surgeons had to cut out about five inches of the colon and remove lymph nodes since the cancer had spread. We were with Ken when he went in for tests to find out if the disease has spread to other parts of his body.
First he is given a shot, but it takes two hours for the nuclear dye to reach all the bone. So, while Ken begins to "shine" from the inside, he gets to change clothes.
Our first clue that Ken is trying to wear cancer with a smile quickly follows. "The fun part about this is you're not bare in the back," says Ken about his hospital gown.
It's time for the first big test, a CT scan, but first, a glass of "magic" that will paint a better picture of the intestines from the inside. Ken is moved inside a donut shaped imaging device that will reveal whether his cancer has spread to other organs.
Watching from a nearby room, we can see the images come into focus. "This is our main concern right here. That it hasn't gone to the liver," says a technician.
Before Ken knows the results, he gets dressed and returns to take care of that nuclear injection. That will highlight a skeletal image so doctors can see if the cancer has moved into his bone.
The American Cancer Society suggests that unless you have a family history of colon cancer, screening should begin at age 50. Ken is 49. He knew one grandmother died of liver cancer and the other grandmother died of lung cancer, but what he didn't know until his own diagnosis was that both those cancers originated in the colon. So family history is significant.
When it comes to colon cancer concerns, Ken had the family history and he had a little rectal bleeding. Other symptoms can include a change in bowel habits, persistent fatigue or a chronic iron deficiency.
The third and final test Ken is taking is called pet imaging and it highlights or 'spots' any fast growing cells, red flag for cancer. Now, the results of all three tests are collected and sent to Ken's oncologist to determine how much the cancer has spread. "There's a 60% probability the disease has spread to other places," says Dr. Rodolfo Martinez, an oncologist.
We were outside Ken's room when Dr. Martinez went in to talk about the extent of his disease and the news was good. "Right now, there's no indication of growth disease big enough to see with the naked eye," says Dr. Martinez.
He will be on chemotherapy for 12 months. The type of chemotherapy he'll be getting is one that requires a continuous infusion. That means Ken will be hooked up to this portable pump for five days then nothing for 22. It will be the same thing every month for a year. For Ken, this was a positive prescription because he can continue the work he loves with the lifeline he wears anywhere he wants to wear it.
"You know, God is good and it's a good life and as far as I'm concerned, it's just one more bump in the road," says Ken.