Phil B., Wisconsin, USA

Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Midwestern Regional Medical Center

"I'm a retired firefighter, so I know what fighting is, and I'm not going to let the dragon slay me." That's how Phil B. took on his battle with stage IV colon cancer.

His personal war began in 2006 when, at age 48, Phil noticed some blood in his stool. "A typical male, I didn't see anything to be concerned about," he says, but his wife, a registered nurse, took him immediately to an urgent care facility. The next day, he had a colonoscopy. By the time the anesthesia wore off, Phil found himself an inpatient in his hometown hospital, with colon surgery scheduled for the following day.

A week later, Phil had done his homework. He contacted the surgeon and agreed to the removal of 9 inches (about 23 centimeters) of his colon, but his plans didn't stop there. Phil had a friend at work that was going to CTCA, and she was full of praise for the personalized attention she was receiving there.

Phil understood his friend's reasons when he first arrived at the center in Zion, Illinois. "You walk in the door at CTCA and it's a totally different world," Phil says. He quickly noticed that every staff member, from the receptionist to the CEO, remembered his name, inquired about his family, and offered advice, a hug or a joke when needed.

At CTCA, Phil immediately began a course of 15 monthly five-day chemotherapy treatments through a port surgically implanted in his shoulder to feed drugs directly into his arteries. The treatment was, in Phil’s judgment, "rough," and Phil's fight against cancer during that time was intense. Fortunately, it showed results quickly. "My biggest tumor was the size of a baseball. With three of those intra-arterial treatments, we knocked it down significantly," Phil reports.

Even at his weakest point, Phil seldom lost his sense of humor. In December, at his lowest weight, he walked into the infusion clinic with battery-operated Christmas lights wrapped around his body, dragging his pump on wheels behind him, and handed out candy to the other patients on chemo. "I got some people to laugh and feel better, so I felt better, too," he says.

Today Phil is cancer-free and is a regular advisor to CTCA physicians and managers in the ongoing improvement of their services. His first "rule" is, Be comfortable with your doctor. His second rule is, Never let cancer defeat you. "You can do all the medicine you want, but you’ve got to have the attitude and the fight,” he asserts. “My family, my friends, my pride, my work, everything was 110 percent."

My biggest tumor was the size of a baseball. With three of those intra-arterial treatments, we knocked it down significantly.

Last updated on 4 January 2016