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UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

Rodney Calles — Portrait of a cancer survivor

Rodney Calles, image courtesy of R. CallesRodney Calles had dealt for months with what he thought was a stomach virus. After deciding that UC Davis Health System would provide access to better overall quality of care, he and his wife switched health care coverage, and his new primary care physician recommended a colonoscopy. On the very day of the procedure, Christopher Bowlus, associate professor and internal medicine specialist, diagnosed Calles’ symptoms as colorectal cancer.

“No way that this could be happening,” Calles remembers thinking. “I was a healthy 48-year-old man, who took good care of himself. This was a day my wife and I will never forget.”

Bowlus and Vijay Khatri, professor of surgery and specialist in surgical oncology, set the wheels in motion for Calles’ treatment.

Less than one month later, Calles underwent surgery to remove part of his colon. In addition, a biopsy was performed on a couple of spots on his liver, which were confirmed as malignant. This, along with affected lymph nodes, lead to a diagnosis of stage IV liver cancer.

After his colon surgery, Calles began two months of chemotherapy to stop the spread of the liver cancer. After a brief recovery period, a second round of chemotherapy began, this time in conjunction with radiation treatment. The second round, isolated to his pelvic region as a "clean up" procedure for the colon surgery, successfully reduced the size of the cancerous liver spots.

Prior to the liver surgery, Calles also underwent a procedure to block off the blood supply to the affected part of the liver. The procedure caused the diseased portion of the liver to shrink, and allowed the healthier part to grow enough to sustain functionality.

Calles then underwent a partial hepatectomy, and had approximately 40 percent of his liver removed. After another recovery period, he underwent one final, four-month round of chemotherapy.

The multi-step treatment process was arduous, but Calles remained optimistic. “Every blood test, scan – PET, ultrasound, x-ray – and procedure was comprehensively explained to me, and my concerns were met with speed and consideration,” he says. “My doctors - Dr. Khatri and Dr. Michael Tanaka in hematology/oncology – advised me to take this treatment one step at a time, to not be overly concerned about possible future complications, and to not get caught up in the often-depressing statistical percentages. They assured me that each case is unique and that I was receiving the most current up-to-date treatments. By keeping my stress levels down, this led me to believe that I was only going to improve my survival percentages!

“I truly believe that the quality of professionals, the most up-to-date treatment and overall compassion and care I received at UC Davis has certainly lead to my positive outcome,” he says.

At Calles’ most recent follow-up appointment, Khatri stated that he had almost “hit a home run!” 

Today, there are no signs of the cancer returning, which in turn reduces the chances that it will ever return. “My monitoring will, of course, continue,” Calles says, “but I am more self-confident of a cancer-free life with each passing day.” 

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