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David Morschauser: Focused on Moving Forward After a Diagnosis of Rectal Cancer

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“The doctors I met with at Fox Chase, medical oncologist Dr. Michael J. Hall and surgical oncologist Dr. Sanjay S. Reddy, were more accommodating than the doctors at the first hospital I went to. They took my wishes into account when treating my cancer.”

— David Morschauser

Early in 2019, I started to experience an uncomfortable feeling whenever I sat down on a hard surface. Little things like riding my bike or just resting on a bench started to hurt a little. At first, it wasn’t that bad, so I just ignored it and hoped it would go away on its own.

The sensation got progressively worse, but about a year passed before I decided to get checked out. Looking back, I should have gone earlier, but I think I just didn’t want to hear bad news. In fact, I think men generally avoid seeing their doctors for the same reason. Obviously, that’s not the best route to take.

I went to the doctor, and sure enough, I got the bad news I had been avoiding. The doctors found a tumor near the base of my sphincter, a little smaller than a dime. I was only 41 when I was diagnosed with rectal cancer.

Focus on Moving Forward

After the doctors found the tumor, I was pretty focused on moving forward. Obviously, I was disappointed, but I never let myself get depressed. I didn’t let anybody speak negatively about it, because it was just a problem that needed solving.

I spoke to some doctors at one hospital, but they were pretty adamant that we move straight to surgery. I wasn’t comfortable with that; they were just moving too fast for me. Then my former mother-in-law recommended I try Fox Chase Cancer Center.

The doctors I met with at Fox Chase, medical oncologist Dr. Michael J. Hall and surgical oncologist Dr. Sanjay S. Reddy, were more accommodating than the doctors at the first hospital I went to. They took my wishes into account when treating my cancer. They always seemed to have my best interests at heart, and even though I knew I probably wasn’t their only patient, I always felt like I was.

At Fox Chase, my doctors set me up with a treatment plan focused on chemotherapy, which I had every day for a month straight. The medicine left me feeling exhausted and nauseated, and gave me this weird tingling sensation in my feet, but it worked. After the daily chemo, the tumor had entirely disappeared.

Cancer Recurrence

I lived completely cancer free for about two years after that. Then, in November of 2021, my doctors found another tumor in the same area as before. At 43, I was diagnosed with rectal cancer, again.

This time my doctors told me I had fewer options. Dr. Reddy recommended that we move straight to surgery, which I was pretty uncomfortable with at first. It took me about a month to commit, but eventually, I realized it was really my only choice.

When the day came, I was still a little nervous, but I knew Dr. Reddy was a very knowledgeable surgeon. Throughout my treatment, I knew he had been consulting with his colleagues to determine the best course of action in treating my cancer. He performed what’s called a robotic abdominal-perineal resection and it was a success. About a month after they found my second tumor, it had been removed.

Life After Cancer

I was back on my feet just a few days after surgery. The doctors were able to remove the tumor, but my life hasn’t fully returned to normal. As a result of the surgery, I’ve had to wear an ostomy bag, which collects bodily waste. It is obviously a challenge, but living with it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I’ve managed to adapt to its presence, but it’s still not something I’m excited about.

Also, my doctors put me back on my chemotherapy treatment as a preventative measure. They said it was just in case there were any microscopic remains of the tumor left in my body. I had to do it for about two months, so I experienced exhaustion and nausea again, but I had my girlfriend and my family to help me get through it. They’ve all been a massive help throughout this whole process, helping me keep positive and move forward.

When this is all over, I’m really just looking forward to having my freedom back. I’m looking forward to not having to worry about doctor’s appointments, or chemo treatments, or any of that. I want to be able to take my son snowboarding in the winter, go to the beach in the summer, and visit my daughter without having to worry about something going wrong. I just want to get back to normal.

To anyone in the position I was in two years ago, where you’ve just gotten diagnosed with cancer, I’d say this: It’s all about your outlook. You need to think positively and just let the doctors do their job. Trust the medical process and keep moving forward.

Learn more about treatment for rectal cancer at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

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