A Clinical Trial Helped Me Beat the Odds Against Colorectal Cancer

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The way I saw it was that I could either die from cancer, or from the side effects from the clinical trial. It was a difficult decision to make, but I am glad I chose it.

By Jacob (J.J.) Singleton, Fight Colorectal Cancer Ambassador

In 2015, I was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer at the age of 27, after ignoring my symptoms. My parents finally made me go to the doctor. You could see the throbbing in my stomach when I pulled my shirt up.

Within a week after that first doctor’s appointment, I was in surgery, where I had 80% of my colon removed. Soon after, I began treatment and endured 12 rounds of chemo.

I thought I had beat cancer until six weeks later. I woke up in the middle of the night and felt the same throbbing in my stomach. I called the doctor and tests showed that cancer had spread to the lymph nodes in my abdominal wall. This time, I went to Duke University Hospital.

The doctors there told me that my cancer was incurable since it was not a solid tumor. I tried three different chemo cocktails that did not work. Finally, I was approved for a clinical trial for Keytruda (pembrolizumab), which luckily has worked for me.

I decided to try the clinical trial because I would have been gone in six months or less without it. The way I saw it was that I could either die from cancer, or from the side effects from the clinical trial. It was a difficult decision to make, but I am glad I chose it. I recommend to anyone considering a clinical trial: talk to your doctor, family and friends.

In the beginning, I felt like an experiment, but I don’t feel that way now. I feel like I was given a chance not only for myself, but for others, because this drug has continued to save lives. Clinical trials are not guaranteed to help, but the payoff is ten-fold if they do.

Finding Community

In 2019, I started to share my story, which helped others. Finding my voice has given me so much purpose. Even though I still go through hard days, being open, sharing my story and making connections with those in the cancer community gives me hope and faith for the times don’t think I can make it.

In June 2021, I had my 100th infusion, and I beat the 25% survivor odds they initially gave me.

I am happy that I get to continue sharing my story as a Fight CRC Ambassador. My goal is to help people understand what cancer is really about. It's not what you see in movies or TV shows. Cancer involves ups and downs, and it also comes with a big mental health aspect. Going to therapy was lifesaving. There is a stigma around men and mental health, and I would like to break this barrier. I want men to know that getting help does not make you weak; it makes you stronger.

Without clinical trials, therapies would not evolve to become better and more reliable. All current therapies used today are a result of colorectal cancer clinical trials. To learn more, visit FightCRC.org/clinicaltrials.

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