Playing the Odds in the Poker Game of Life With Cancer

CURESpring 2023
Volume 22
Issue 1

“In the poker game of life, if you’re dealt a bad set of cards, the best you can do is play them as well as you can,” a cancer survivor said.

Burt Knight, 62, of Denver, received a diagnosis of stage 4 stomach cancer in 2020 that had spread to the peritoneum. He had just undergone 12 rounds of chemotherapy, but cancer cells were still present in his stomach. What’s more, his oncologist was not very optimistic, leaving Knight feeling discouraged.

Burt Knight wearing sunglasses, smiling at the camera, showing off a fish he caught

Burt Knight underwent HIPEC treatment and surgery for gastric cancer, and now says he is doing well — and even went on a trip to Alaska.

Knight was no stranger to cancer. Ten years earlier, he had received a diagnosis of colon cancer, discovered during a routine colonoscopy.

“I was the poster child for colon cancer,” Knight recalls. “I had a colonoscopy at 50, they found malignant polyps and were able to treat the cancer surgically. I didn’t even need chemo.”

But this time, his situation was different. As Knight was pondering next steps, his family scoured the internet for treatment options. One of Knight’s daughters came across a webinar about stomach cancer with Dr. Brian Badgwell, a surgeon and oncologist at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He was talking about HIPEC and surgery for gastric surgery, still considered an experimental treatment in the United States.

“You could see his passion even over the computer screen,” Knight recalls. “He didn’t just want to treat cancer; he wanted to eradicate it. At that moment, I knew he was the doctor I wanted to work with.”

READ MORE: An Innovative Approach to Chemotherapy

Knight and his wife traveled to MD Anderson and met with Badgwell. He wanted to conduct his own diagnostic tests, so he ordered an endoscopy and new scans. Although there was no sign of cancer in the peritoneum, they too, saw cancer cells in the stomach.

That concern was magnified when Knight had genetic testing and found out that he had a genetic mutation for stomach cancer that increased his chances of developing the disease to over 80%.

“Dr. Badgwell wanted me to have my stomach removed, which felt drastic,” he says. “Ultimately, however, I went that route. I had HIPEC both before and after surgery.”

Knight had his surgery two years ago and so far, so good. He stopped working and has taken several trips, including a fishing trip to Alaska. He also has a 2-year-old grandson, whom he watches every Wednesday.

“In the poker game of life, if you’re dealt a bad set of cards, the best you can do is play them as well as you can,” Knight adds. “If only 1% of gastric cancer patients beat the odds, I want to be one of those 1 percenters.”

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