In February 2017 Donald Robinson of Farmington Hills came into the Emergency Room at Henry Ford Hospital with a ruptured appendix. Little did he know, it would be the first of many visits to the hospital for him and his wife, Zelda.
Later that same year it was recommended that Donald have his colonoscopy. Having had one 5 years prior, they found pre-cancerous polyps. Between this and the perforated appendix — which was suspected to be from cancer penetration in the right colon — the colonoscopy was scheduled.
Faiza Bhatti, M.D., performed the colonoscopy and the follow-up tests. The tests confirmed the worst; Donald had colon cancer. “When I saw him in the clinic I was concerned of malignancy from the get-go so seeing a mass in the right colon where perforation of the appendix had happened was not a surprise to me,” she said.
Immediately following the diagnosis, a CT scan indicated that the Stage 4 colon cancer had spread to the liver as well. This news is enough to make just about anyone flinch but Donald said he felt at ease. “The team at Henry Ford calmed my fears,” he said. “There was no wait to see a specialist, they immediately had me meet with my surgeons. The surgeons and the team talked me through everything.”
Amalia Stefanou, M.D. , a colon and rectal cancer specialist, and Michael Rizzari, M.D., a cancer surgeon and transplant specialist had a plan to remove the cancer in the colon and the liver together in one surgery. In November of 2017, Dr. Rizzari did a burn of the liver and Dr. Stefanou went in and removed the cancerous tumor from the colon. The surgery took just 4 hours. A post-surgery CT scan showed that there was no remaining cancer in the body.
Donald was released from the hospital four days post-surgery and claims that his recovery has been amazing. The recovery process started in the hospital soon after the procedure. Donald recalls the nurses and staff insisting he get up and walk around. “When I finally got up and started walking, they started applauding,” he said. The next day Donald was encouraging others on the unit to walk the floor with him. “All the staff were remarkable,” he said.
On March 4th, 2019, a scan showed four spots on Donald’s abdominal area. The team took his case back to tumor board where the team recommended the HIPEC (Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy) procedure with Rupen Shah, M.D. and David Kwon, M.D. HIPEC is a heated chemotherapy that is administered after tumor-removing surgery to treat cancers that spread to the lining of the abdomen. Drs. Shah and Kwon operated on Donald for peritoneal carcinomatosis that spread from his colon cancer. During the procedure, David Leavitt, M.D. removed the cancer from the urethra and bladder.
Since undergoing HIPEC treatment, scans have been clean for the abdomen and the colon region but there are still two small spots on Donald’s liver that the team is monitoring. Donald continues with chemotherapy to treat the small spots and is hopeful for success. Donald was receiving chemotherapy every other week, to keep the cancer at bay.
“I don’t like to see people down. I do my best to encourage everyone.” Gazala Khan, M.D., is his medical oncologist overseeing the medicine portion of his treatment. “She is awesome,” he exclaimed. His wife, Zelda, attends the infusion appointments with him and has always been his biggest support.
Donald and Zelda celebrated 40 years of marriage and they hope to take a trip to Hawaii to celebrate. “We were blessed with two children and seven grandchildren,” he explained. “I love spending time with my grandchildren, fishing, working around the house and taking care of yard and the garden.”
Above all, Donald loves being in church. He is an ordained elder who preaches periodically and teaches Sunday school each week at Kaleo Apostolic Church in Detroit.
CT scans continue, and he continues to encourage others to get their colonoscopy. “It saved my life. To God be the glory.”