Colon Cancer

Graeme Le Roux – It was a no-brainer

June 2, 2024 Word for Word Media 0Comment

Graeme Le Roux tells us how cryoablation saved him from having major surgery, to remove a cancerous tumour, that would have left him with a urostomy bag.

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Graeme Le Roux (56) lives in Kloof, KwaZulu-Natal with his wife, Nicci, and their two children, aged 23 and 19.

Graeme has had health issues since he was 29 years old; he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the digestive tract, which causes severe cramping and diarrhoea and is incapacitating. In 2003, at the age of 35, the majority of his colon was surgically removed, leaving only 15cm left, which resulted in a temporary colostomy bag for six months before a reconstruction was performed.

In April 2020, it was discovered that there were pre-cancerous cells in the remainder of the colon and Graeme was advised to get them removed, which he did. As a result of this surgery, he had a permanent colostomy bag going forward.

In March 2022, Graeme was diagnosed with recurrent rectal cancer, confirmed on CT and MRI imaging. In addition, he was suffering with constant pelvic pain and was unable to sit down without a pillow. “I was shocked by the diagnosis to be honest, but I’m used to setbacks due to my past health history,” Graeme says.

Unfortunately, the chemotherapy and radiation that Graeme underwent didn’t have any effect on the tumour and surgery was recommended as a last resort.

Resignation of surgery

Graeme’s surgical team, both in Durban and JHB, were reluctant to go ahead with the operation due to the high risks involved and, in order to obtain clear margins, would require removal of all his pelvic organs, including his bladder and prostate. The surgery would also leave him with an additional stoma bag to drain his urine. “It’s hard enough to live with one bag, now I was going to have two bags but my wife and I resigned ourselves to it as it would save my life,” Graeme says. 

New treatment plan

Graeme’s oncologist phoned him to say that he may be a candidate for cryoablation, a process that uses extreme cold to destroy tissue. “I didn’t get my hopes up as I had come to terms with the surgery but still went for the consultation with the diagnostic and interventional radiologist. He explained that this non-invasive procedure to date has been used for kidney tumours but due to me not having a colon, I was a candidate as there was no colon to be affected. I would be in hospital for two nights as opposed to a month in JHB and the worst case scenario was if it didn’t work a hundred percent, I would be able to have it done again. I was also informed it may affect my prostate. To me it was a no-brainer of which treatment route to go: cryoablation,” Graeme says.

“The procedure was explained to me: a needle would be inserted into the tumour using CT-guidance and then an iceball is generated at the needle tip to destroy the tumour in an accurate and controlled fashion. The tumour breaks up into tiny little pieces and gets obliterated so it can’t regrow.”

Even though this treatment option excited Graeme, he admits he did have trepidation about how well it would work. He adds, “It’s expensive but thankfully my Discovery medical aid, covered it.”

The cryoablation procedure

In April 2023, Graeme underwent cryoablation at Life Entabeni Hospital. No preparation was needed. He was put under anaesthetic with the procedure taking around two hours. He was in hospital for two days and came home with a catheter (for a week) as his bladder and prostate were affected temporarily by post procedure inflammation. There was pain where the tumour was.

“This was a small price to pay compared to what I would have dealt with if I had the surgery,” Graeme says. Four months later, Graeme went for a scan and it was all clear. He is due for another follow-up and if it’s all clear, the follow-ups will become yearly. “I’m very grateful, elated and overjoyed by what cryoablation has done for my health.”

Physically fit and good quality of life

Despite all of Graeme’s health issues, he says he has remained physically fit and has a good quality of life. He is active six days a week and recently completed the 2024 Cape Town Cycle Tour (109km).

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Header image by Nicci Le Roux Photography
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