Gilberto Rolón

Metastatic Lung Cancer Patient Stories, Colon Cancer Patient Stories

Gilbert Rolon, Sr.

Gilbert Rolon, Sr., (center)
pictured with two of his sons.

A diagnosis of metastatic colon cancer prompted Gilbert's grown children to be screened. After being diagnosed with polyps, his son, Gilbert, Jr., calls himself "the poster child for early detection."

Everyone knows colonoscopies are no fun. Maybe that's why Gilbert Rolon waited until his 70th birthday before he had his first one. By that point, he was already having symptoms of colon cancer - and the colonoscopy confirmed his diagnosis of metastatic colon cancer to the lung. When his doctor learned Gilbert had grown children, he suggested they each have a colonoscopy because of family risk. His son Gilbert, Jr. was diagnosed with polyps, which were easily removed. "I was 45 at the time. If I had waited until I turned 50, I might have had cancer myself," he recalled. "I am the poster child for early detection."

"In the Hispanic culture, we didn't talk about cancer."

With little hope for a bright future in Puerto Rico, Gilbert set sail for the United States in 1953 at the age of 18. He settled in Philadelphia, where Gilbert launched a successful musical career, and supported his family by working for more than 30 years at Ford Motor Company in Lansdale, PA. "In the Hispanic culture, we didn't talk about cancer," Gilbert recalled. "So the idea of prevention and screening was not something we were comfortable with."

Gilbert believes his cancer could have been prevented with early detection.

Gilbert, Jr. believes that his father's cancer could have been caught earlier - or even prevented - if he had a colonoscopy when he turned 50 (the recommended age). Once was diagnosed with cancer, Gilbert sought treatment at a large Philadelphia University hospital. Hi son explained, "The surgeons were eager to operate immediately to remove his colon, leaving my dad with a colostomy bag for the rest of his life. If there was another option, we wanted to find it. That's when we went to Fox Chase for a second opinion. We just wanted the best for our dad."

After evaluating Gilbert, the surgeons at Fox Chase promised his family they would avoid a colostomy bag if at all possible, but they would not know what they were up against until the operation. In 2005, Dr. Elin Sigurdson performed the delicate procedure in which the tumor was removed, and with it a portion of the colon. She rebuilt the colon to preserve its function and avoid the colostomy bag.

"It was very comforting to know the Fox Chase team was not looking for a 'quick fix' for my dad."

"It was very comforting to know the Fox Chase team was not looking for a 'quick fix' for my dad. They truly wanted to offer him the most effective treatment," said Gilbert, Jr. "Between the amazing surgeons at Fox Chase and the grace of God, our dad came out of surgery not needing a colostomy bag. Needless to say, we were absolutely thrilled with Fox Chase - especially the nurses, who were extremely attentive."

After a moment of elation, Gilbert's family learned that his cancer had already spread to his lung. To treat the metastasis, Dr. Barbara Burtness, a medical oncologist, was consulted. She prescribed a course of chemotherapy, which has been successful at controlling the cancer's growth. Since 2006, Gilbert has been on active treatment.

A recording musician, here is Gilbert Rolon's jacket cover from the 1960s.

Gilberto Rolón

A recording musician, here is Gilbert Rolon's jacket cover from the 1960s.

"Dr. Burtness is a wonderful doctor."

"Dr. Burtness is a wonderful doctor," Gilbert shared. "And to tell you the truth, I have not let the cancer stop me from living. I still walk 3-4 miles a day and eat very healthy food. And I enjoy spending time with my family. They have stood by me and acted as my advocate whenever necessary."

Dr. Burtness is very pleased with Gilbert's treatment, noting that he is one of the healthiest 75 years olds she's seen - and he's been on chemotherapy for several years.

"I've never met such caring people as I have at Fox Chase. I'm in awe of the staff."

Gilbert, Jr., an ordained minister and chaplain at a Bucks County prison, is so happy they made the decision to bring their father to Fox Chase. "I've never met such caring people as I have at Fox Chase," shared Gilbert, Jr., who deals with troubled people every day. "I'm in awe of the staff at Fox Chase. They have taught me so much. I don't know where they come from, but each one is truly amazing."