You'd expect a cardiologist to take good care of her heart. By the same token, you'd think a doctor who looks for colon cancer would know what tests are needed, when to get them, and follow through with the procedures. But one area gastroenterologist was left fighting for his life because he didn't follow his own recommendations.
Dr. Rudolph Schilli performs hundreds of colonoscopies at Conemaugh Health System's Memorial Medical Center, but he delayed getting one for himself. As he explained, "like any other person, you put it off. You think you feel okay, and so you really might not get it done."
In 2002, one episode with bloody stool, sent Dr. Schilli to the hospital for a colonoscopy, revealed he had stage 3 colon cancer, which led to surgery and 24 chemotherapy treatments.
"I had gotten chemo the day before, and I diagnosed colon cancer in this pleasant woman, and when I told her she should have chemo, she was just very upset and I said, 'oh it's not so bad.' And she said. 'how do you know?' and I said, I had some yesterday. "
But chemo wasn't enough for Dr. Schilli. Several months later, tests led to another surgery--this time in the lung where the cancer had spread. He again underwent more chemotherapy.
The experience changed how Dr. Schilli approaches his patients with cancer. He knows what they're going through, and says it can be even harder on the people who love them. He credits his family , especially his wife Brenda, for supporting him.
Today, Dr. Schilli regularly has follow-up tests for cancer, and he keeps a positive attitude, saying, "the most important thing is no matter how grim it looks, we can all live just one day at a time, and that's the proper perspective, and to have courage and move on."
Dr Schilli emphatically tells his patients, who turn 50, that they need to have a screening colonoscopy. People with a family history of colorectal cancer need to get that first test even earlier.
For more information about colorectal cancer, or for a brochure on the Facts about Colorectal Cancer from Conemaugh Health Systems, click here to complete our form.