Colon Cancer Patient Encourages Others Not to Skip Screenings

A Tennessee Tech engineering graduate from Smithville who has worked in the TVA nuclear power program for the past 38 years, Lafever learned in August 2018 that he had colon cancer.

 

“I had been feeling fatigued for quite some time, and one Sunday morning, I got up and took a shower, and it just exhausted me,” said Lafever. “I came downstairs and started talking with my family, and we decided I should go to the emergency room.”

 

There, he learned that he was severely anemic, likely from internal bleeding. A colonoscopy was ordered.

 

“Dr. Maan Anbari did the colonoscopy, and we finished that up about one o’clock on a Tuesday,” said Lafever. “He found that I had a 97% blockage in my colon due to a tumor, so he immediately talked to Dr. Brian Gerndt, a general and vascular surgeon, and I was in surgery at four o’clock the same day.”

 

Dr. Gerndt performed a colectomy to remove the diseased portion of the colon. He determined the tumor was a stage 3 cancer, which means it had gone through the colon wall and progressed to the adjacent lymph nodes.

 

“They removed some of the lymph nodes, and so I spent about 10 days in Cookeville Regional recovering from the colectomy, followed by about 12 to 13 days of home rest, but I was able to go back to work within 30 days,” said Lafever.

 

Two months later, he began a six-month chemotherapy regimen to treat any other lymph nodes that might have been affected.

 

Even though Lafever works in Chattanooga, he chose Cookeville Regional so he could be near his family.

 

“I didn’t have any qualms about the quality of care here,” said Lafever. “As far as I’m concerned, it was the best I could have received anywhere.”

 

When the treatments ended in April of 2019, a CT scan showed that everything was clear, so Lafever moved into a monitoring phase. He sees his oncologist, Dr. Venumadhav Kotla, every three months for bloodwork and gets CT scans every six months.

 

“I’ve learned my lesson on following the doctor’s orders, the thought being that if we find something, we find it early, and the earlier the better in terms of the treatment,” said Lafever. “I may not be totally out of the woods yet, but to monitor and catch things early gives you the best chance.”

Lafever feels fortunate that his cancer was found and treated in time, since he rarely ever went to the doctor before his cancer diagnosis, and he had skipped the recommended health screenings like colonoscopies.

 

“I had always been healthy, so I guess I thought I was just going to live forever,” said Lafever. “Now my advice to my younger brothers and the friends that I work with is to do the preventative stuff. Do the colonoscopies at the proper time, because it can save you so much in terms of effort in recovery.”