When I first met my colorectal surgeon, Dr. Leandro Feo, we had a lot in common. My last name is kind of like Dr. Feo’s but with a “b” in it - Febo. Dr. Feo and I have the same exact date of birth. We were both born on May 26, 1976. I am older by a couple of hours. This was a nice icebreaker helping to ease my mind a bit because at the time I was suffering from abdominal pain, bloody stools and fatigue.
I worked for a primary care physician, Dr. Raul Perez-Vazquez, who knew Dr. Feo very well. Having that type of connection between both physicians helped to move things quickly with my care. My doctor ordered a colonoscopy for me and recommended I see Dr. Feo and Dr. Mahdi Taha, medical director of medical oncology at Delray Medical Center. Some of the biopsies from the colonoscopy sent to pathology came back positive for colon cancer.
When I learned of my diagnosis, it was a shock to me because I was young. I was only 45 at the time with no family history of cancer. Thankfully, they had recently lowered the age of colorectal cancer screening to 45-years of age. I eat healthy, I am active and I have two daughters, so, it was a very scary and overwhelming diagnosis. Thank God, I was able to have the surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
Dr. Feo performed my colonoscopy and my ileostomy port access at the Delray Medical Center outpatient surgery center. I had my endoscopy there as well. Dr. Feo performed the colorectal surgery I needed at Delray Medical Center and I stayed in the hospital for five days. I received excellent care at Delray Medical Center. The wound care nurses were great, they are an amazing team and very attentive! They helped me to learn the process of taking care of my ileostomy port and bag.
Dr. Taha also gave me a second chance at life. He is my oncologist and helped me with my chemotherapy, and medicine dosage and booster shots. When I was not feeling well, he was always there for whatever care I needed. The chemotherapy nurses, they prayed with me, cried with me, sang me ‘Happy Birthday’ and brought me cake. They went beyond in how they treated me as a patient. It is (chemotherapy) intense when you are in there going through all that.
Radiation treatment of my cancerous tumor took place at the South Florida Proton Therapy Institute (SFPTI) located on the Delray Medical Center campus. Dr. Tim Williams, a board-certified radiation oncologist and medical director at SFPTI led my treatment. I did 25 sessions, and the treatment was a few minutes long each session. They have a nice changing area and their nurses as well as medical staff were so helpful and even gave me samples of protein shakes that helped me with my nutrition. I was not eating for about three months and those shakes helped me with nutrition. I even saw a nutritionist at SFPTI. The SFPTI office also offered mental therapy and counseling. The SFPTI building is beautiful, the doctors are nice and the technicians were very kind, caring, and treat patients like family.
For my follow-ups at Dr. Feo’s new office at Palm Beach Surgical, I was delighted to find the general surgery practice spacious, convenient with plenty of restrooms, which is great from a patient standpoint. I am able to get into his office easily and quickly and seen for my appointment within a reasonable amount of time. Dr. Feo’s staff were very efficient in communicating and coordinating my preparation, procedures and medications.
I lost 37 lbs. while fighting colon cancer. I was out of work for 14-months. There were a few days that I was stuck in bed, other days when I could not walk much or drive. I wanted to share my experience because colon cancer is occurring in younger people every day. Get your colonoscopy cancer screening. Preventative care is key. Listen to your body and see a doctor if you notice something abnormal with your health. I have two girls. I want to continue being their Mom and experience life with them. I want to be a part of every aspect of their lives that I can be a part of - everything.
I am happy to say that Dr. Feo reversed my ileostomy and I no longer need a bag. Today, physically I feel like I am super healthy. I have had CT scans and MRI scans with my oncologist and happy to report those tests were negative of tumors with no evidence of cancer. It took a great team to get me where I am today. Completely cancer free!