Steve McCluski's Story
Steve McCluski receives state-of-the-art care for an aggressive form of colon cancer.
Steve McCluski isn’t known as a procrastinator.
But a few years ago, the former Chief Financial Officer for Bausch & Lomb put off one of the most important events of his life: his first colonoscopy.
When Steve finally had that colonoscopy about a year later, at age 51, his doctor discovered some unusual growths in his colon. A biopsy revealed that those growths were cancerous.
“At that point, I wasn’t really concerned,” relates Steve. He was referred to Highland Hospital for surgery, where Dr. Vince Chang removed the cancerous section of Steve’s colon.
Steve had thought that all of the cancer would be contained in his colon, but the surgery revealed otherwise. The cancer had spread to his lymph nodes.
The sudden realization that his cancer was more serious than expected had a big impact on Steve’s psyche. “It was a scary time,” he recalls. “You feel healthy, so there’s a sense of disbelief. You just wonder, ‘How can this be?’”
Steve was told he needed to make an appointment with an oncologist. His decision was a simple one.
“I got in touch with Wilmot,” he says. “They’re the most comprehensive in the area. And in terms of their research, their size, and the qualifications of their staff, I knew they would be best.”
Steve was referred to Dr. Alok Khorana, a specialist in cancers of the stomach and colon. The additional tests that Dr. Khorana performed revealed more bad news: it appeared Steve’s cancer had already spread out of his lymph nodes. There was a strong likelihood that Steve had stage 4 colon cancer.
“I knew what that meant,” Steve says. “When colon cancer goes to stage 4, the prognosis is not good.” Five-year survival rates for stage 4 colon cancer are only 8-15%.
Dr. Khorana put Steve on an aggressive regimen of chemotherapy. But an even greater challenge lay ahead for Steve and his wife, Kim.
“Our younger son was going through some medical difficulties at that time,” says Steve. “He was spending time at Golisano Children’s Hospital while I was getting my chemo.”
Their son passed away while Steve’s cancer was still being treated.
“It was traumatic,” Steve says. “Our friends and family really helped, and we got through it somehow.”
Dr. Khorana’s care and support was critical, too. “He was absolutely terrific,” Steve says. “I have the utmost respect for him. He never pulled any punches, and he helped me to understand the disease.”
Four months after the death of their son, Steve was referred for surgery to remove a spot from his liver. “That was rough on my wife,” Steve recalls. “We had just lost one of our sons, and she thought she might lose me, as well.”
Steve came through the surgery without any problems, and received some excellent news: The spot on his liver was not cancerous.
At that point, Steve did not require any further treatment for his cancer. Even so, he came back to the Wilmot Cancer Center regularly for MRI and CT scans to ensure that the cancer had not returned or spread.
Five years after his initial diagnosis, he received some of the best news of his life: “They told me I should consider myself cured!” Steve says. “That was a great day.”
Steve’s experience with cancer had a significant impact on his life. He is now semi-retired, and he and Kim devote much of their time to volunteering for the Wilmot Cancer Center and the Golisano Children’s Hospital.
Not surprisingly, he also tries to ensure that other people don’t put off getting a colonoscopy: “I’ve become a crusader for people to go do it!” he says. “It is so important to find colon cancer early.”
Steve is quick to express his appreciation for the Wilmot Cancer Center. “They were terrific throughout the whole process,” he says. “They make you believe that you will get through this, that you are their only concern.”
And Steve is especially appreciative for the extra time that he has been given. Time that he will be putting to especially good use in a few months, when his first grandchild is born.