Forecasting through a Cancer Fight
- Ben Terry, a meteorologist for an NBC affiliate in Louisiana, has continued giving weather forecasts while undergoing treatment for colon cancer.
- Overall, colorectal cancer cases having been decreasing over the last 20 years, but there has been an increase among younger people. Noting this increase, the United States Preventive Services Task Force has recently updated their screening recommendations to begin at age 45 as opposed to 50.
- Staying positive during cancer treatment can help you achieve better health outcomes. So, whether that means continuing to work, taking up a new hobby or making time for friends, it’s important to prioritize your mental health.
Terry was diagnosed with colon cancer around Thanksgiving of 2020 after Hurricane Laura ravaged through Louisiana and destroyed his home. Unfortunately, his cancer diagnosis probably could’ve come sooner if not for a delayed colonoscopy due to storm damage at his doctor’s office and the COVID-19 pandemic.Read More
In a recent update, Terry shared the exciting news that his radiation treatments were successfully shrinking his tumor by about 15 to 20 percent. At that point on July 1, he had just underwent his 19th of 28 radiation treatments.
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“When fighting cancer, any bit of good news is a HUGE deal,” Terry wrote under a smiling selfie at the hospital. “Since first learning I had cancer in late November 2020, there hasn’t been really any good news from the doctors until this week.”
Terry has already undergone five months of chemotherapy treatments, and now he’s in the midst of radiation treatments he expects to be completed before the end of July. But despite losing a home, navigating a cancer diagnosis through a pandemic and handling intense treatment, Terry has been committed to the viewers of the NBC-affiliated news station KPLC. He has continued to deliver weather updates for the Lake Charles station from a Houston hotel room near the hospital where he has his radiation treatments Monday through Friday every week.
“I would say it would have been a lot easier to give up if I didn’t have the support of my viewers, and I know that all of these people are rooting for me to get better,” Terry told NBC’s Morgan Chesky on TODAY.
And just like Terry stepped up for his viewers, his audience has done the same for him. His loyal viewers rallied together to share their support, and one even started a T-shirt fundraiser to help cover costs of Terry’s treatment.
“When you’re told you have cancer, you know it’s a life-changing thing,” he said. “I made the announcement on Facebook. I would say within minutes I started getting like hundreds of comments on my Facebook posts. It was just overwhelming.”
Given everything he’s gone through, Terry has also made it his mission to encourage people to prioritize their regular cancer screenings. His colonoscopy postponement was a result of variables beyond his control, but thankfully doctors still found his cancer early enough to give a positive prognosis. He wants others to know exactly what’s at stake when you choose to delay screening appointments.
“I’ve got to use this opportunity now to get on and tell people, don’t put off screenings,” he told Chesky.
Understanding Colon Cancer
Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together under the name colorectal cancer because they have many features in common. Like any cancer, colorectal cancer presents its own unique challenges for patients on the road to recovery. But Dr. Heather Yeo, a surgical oncologist and colorectal surgeon at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center, wants to remind people how far the treatment of this disease has come.
“One of the most exciting things about my job is that we’ve made a lot of progress on treatment options,” Dr. Yeo says in a previous interview with SurvivorNet. “However, patients are still — while they’re living longer, they are still living with colon cancer, and so I think it’s really important that we talk about how some of the things in your life affect you.”
Dr. Yeo also wants people to know how important colorectal screenings are. In fact, she says most colorectal cancers can be prevented early with screening.
“In the United States, on a national level, colorectal cancer has been decreasing for the last 20 years,” Dr. Yeo explains. “And much of that is thought to be directly due to screening for colon cancer.”
Even still, colorectal cancer cases are rising among younger people. Noting this increase, the United States Preventive Services Task Force has recently updated their screening recommendations to begin at age 45 instead of 50.
Staying Positive during Treatment
Cancer can be both a mental and physical battle. Ben Terry previously told KPLC that maintaining a positive mindset has helped him work through the struggles of diagnosis and treatment.
“If you make up your mind that you’re not gonna let this medicine pull you down and give that feeling that you’re defeated, because it can do that, it can make you feel really like you’ve been defeated, like you can just give up, but you have to power through that and know that this is just part of the journey,” he said on KPLC.
And just because you’re undergoing cancer treatment does not mean you should stop doing what you love. In fact, experts recommend quite the opposite. Studies have shown that patients who are able to stay upbeat and positive often have better treatment outcomes. It doesn’t really matter what you do, but experts like Dr. Dana Chase, a gynecologic oncologist at Arizona Oncology, recommend doing whatever makes you happy. And if that means continuing to deliver the forecast for Louisiana locals like Ben Terry, then that’s exactly what you should do.
“We know from good studies that emotional health is associated with survival, meaning better quality of life is associated with better outcomes,” Chase told SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “So working on your emotional health, your physical well-being, your social environment [and] your emotional well-being are important and can impact your survival. If that’s related to what activities you do that bring you joy, then you should try to do more of those activities.”