At the beginning of 2021, I noticed blood in my stool, after a stool s…
At the beginning of 2021, I noticed blood in my stool, after a stool sample, a colonoscopy and a biopsy I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, stage 3. I am 67 years old and retired. I kept myself active for a long time by playing tennis, I also like to ride my bike and take long walks.
Dr. Té Vuong presented me with various oncology protocols and I opted for brachytherapy because it only takes 4 days of treatment instead of 25 days for chemo-radiotherapy. It is important to note that the brachytherapy that was proposed to me is a preparatory treatment for surgery and not a complete treatment.
Therefore, my brachytherapy started at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal on February 22nd and ended on February 26, 2021. Other medical techniques such as MRI, CT scan were used to check if other internal organs, especially the lungs and liver, were affected. Fortunately for me, there was nothing significant to report.
In May 2021, I met with the surgeon Dr. Diêc at Pierre-Boucher Hospital in Longueuil. He recommended the removal of the entire rectum and part of the colon, followed by a temporary stoma.
Life after the removal of the rectum was not a glorious future for me, either you go to the bathroom 4 or 5 times a day to eliminate stools, or you wear a colostomy bag for the rest of your life, with all the inconveniences as well as the obligations of cleanliness and sanitation that come with it. For people who love to travel like me, this was unpleasant for me in every way.
I made the decision to refuse aggressive surgery, oncological protocols (chemo-radiotherapy), and chemical-based drugs, I wanted to find a more harmonious and respectful way for my body.
For a long time, I have been aware of the Ohsawa method which consists of eating according to the principle of balance of yin and yang in the body. This way of healing is called ‘Macrobiotics’ and I have chosen it.
I also adopted a strict diet low in glucose, especially without refined sugar, and very little meat protein.
Periods of intermittent or 3-day fasting were interspersed in this treatment period.
Phytotherapy also helped me to strengthen my liver, which had to do a lot of work to eliminate all the toxins in the blood.
This therapy also includes daily physical activities. At the beginning a 10-15 minute walk, gradually reaching the duration of one to two hours. Later on I took up my favorite sport, tennis, and with the help of the warm weather, I went hiking in the forest, in the mountains or on a bicycle.
In November 2021: after the CT scan, endoscopy and PET scan the analyses show that the disease did not develop, rather ‘light’ activity still seem to be present in the pre-sacral lymph nodes, along the iliac axes and in the retro-peritoneum.
April 2022: CT scan + short and long colonoscopy: the tumor at rectal level is no longer visible, the tumor nodes have disappeared.
“Following two eventful, but inconclusive visits to the Emergenc…
“Following two eventful, but inconclusive visits to the Emergency Ward, the first time after non-stop bathroom trips to urinate, the second after anal hemorrhaging, plus a prostate examination – “all good, call for an appointment in 12 months, rectum is not my specialization”, a colonoscopy confirmed rectal cancer.
The confirmation occurred in early 2020, just after the onset of the Covid pandemic which was putting a tremendous strain on the health system. The news was full of extended hospital wait times and cancellations for medical treatment. So, it was most reassuring that a radiologist contacted me within a few days of the diagnosis to schedule the start of my treatment.
There was some discussion between the specialists, oncologist, radiologists, and surgeon, regarding the severity of the tumor, and whether the tumor could be surgically removed. The outcome was that the tumor was classified borderline stage 2 and 3, and non-operable prior to it being decreased in size because of its proximity in the rectum to the anal muscle.
I was then prescribed the 28-day chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Blood test showed that I was missing a certain gene that made the chemotherapy more potent so the standard dose was required to be reduced. The chemotherapy medications often cause nausea or other side effects, but in my case, there was no problem. In fact, the dosage was progressively increased over the course of the treatment. The radiation was done by a huge orbiting machine with a cycle time of about 15 minutes. A more or less full bladder was a pre-requisite to start the radiation. I had regular appointments with the radiologist during the treatment, and he advised there was good progress, the tumor reacting to the treatment, and progressively shrinking in size. We discussed alternative treatments such as brachytherapy which he could not recommend, categorizing it as experimental, and analogous to the early stages of corrective eye surgery.
Once diagnosed with cancer, I reviewed various sources of information on the internet. I found an article on a low carbohydrate diet most compelling and followed that zealously (thanks to my partner) during treatment and for several months thereafter. Information on brachytherapy was sparse, and what there was I subsequently found out was not up to date. I also continued regular, fairly intensive exercise, sometimes at home during winter with gyms shutdown for Covid.
The standard North American protocol following treatment is to surgically remove the cancerous section. I met with the surgeon who advised that the tumor was now operable, would be removed in what I considered a major operation, and would subsequently require temporary plumbing and bag for several weeks to allow the operated rectum to heal. I mentioned the possibility of brachytherapy, the surgeon was aware of the treatment, but did not offer an opinion. A date was set for surgery.
A concerned daughter contacted the JGH oncology department. The response was most positive. I followed up and was given an appointment in the brachytherapy department. Dr Vuong agreed to admit me into the program, and advised that with two brachytherapy treatments the visible cancer could be gone. This news, combined with my misgivings of the alternative, resulted in cancelling the surgery.
The JGH brachytherapy department is in a separate, self-contained area with its own staff, annexed to the oncology section. Although news may not always be good, the environment and staff are very supportive.
Brachytherapy is a treatment that is directly targeted at the site of the tumor. The procedure requires a home enema wash to clean the rectum and anal camera and electrode insertion for treatment. Treatment takes a maximum of a few minutes with minimal discomfort.
I actually underwent three brachytherapy treatments, followed by camera checks at three-month intervals, now extended to six months. I also had ultrasound, MRI and PET scans and blood tests. I am now in the third year following the initial diagnosis. There is no visible sign of cancer.
I am extremely fortunate. I am not in the health care field. Common sense has guided my decisions. I believe the low carb diet and exercise helped to combat the cancer. Targeting of the cancer by brachytherapy instead of surgery in my opinion was preferable. If I could go back to a decision on the initial treatment, I would have opted to start with brachytherapy.
You are welcome to contact me through the JGH organization for clarification or questions.”
1. How old are you? “75 years old” 2. In what year did yo…
1. How old are you?
“75 years old”
2. In what year did you receive your cancer diagnosis?
3. Why did you consult Dr. Vuong?
“After many discussions with Dr. Béland, (St-Jérôme) Dr. Gary Mok, (Cité de la Santé Laval) and Dr. François Dagbert (CHUM) it was suggested that the best treatment for my case was Brachytherapy (JGH Montreal) by Dr. Té Vuong. A treatment which I eagerly accepted”
4. What were the treatments you were offered and how did you make your choice?
“Following a discussion with Dr. Té Vuong, she gave me full confidence in this treatment. She was very reassuring and attentive with me.”
5. Brachytherapy is not a standard treatment, what does the treatment mean for you and your loved ones? Did you find this experience difficult?
“No, I felt very well supported with Dr. Vuong and her team.”
6. How did the surgery go?
“There were no problems and everything went very well”
7. Did you receive chemotherapy afterwards?
“Yes, Intravenous Adjuvant (Preventive) Chemotherapy (Port-a-Cath). The chemotherapy drugs I was given: FOLFOX (leucovorin, 5-fluorouracil and oxaliplatin) every 2 weeks for 6 months (12 cycles)”
8. Overall what advantages and disadvantages did you notice regarding brachytherapy?
“As far as I am concerned, everything went well during the treatments”
9. Are you satisfied with your current quality of life and can you tell us how it has changed after your treatments?
“I am very satisfied with my current quality of life.”
10. Do you think research in this area is important and do you have any suggestions to share with other patients and researchers?
“What I found the most difficult during the treatments for my cancer was the period when I had a temporary ileostomy (February 1, 2019) and especially the prolapse which lasted for a period of five months. Following my intestinal anastomosis (June 29, 2019) I suffered from active incontinence for almost two years. Now for more than a year everything has been going very well. My whole intestinal system works very well. Research is certainly very beneficial in this area.”
1. When have you been diagnosed with a rectal cancer and how old were…
1. When have you been diagnosed with a rectal cancer and how old were you then?
“About 6 to 12 months before the start of radiation therapy, I was 67-68 years old.”
2. What treatment options were offered to you?
“2 treatment options were available to me: surgery of radiotherapy.”
3. Why did you choose radiotherapy?
“By default. Following a meeting with Dr. Vuong advising me that there was a 50-60% chance of success with radiotherapy, I had opted for surgery but due to my physical condition at the time, it was impossible, so back to radiotherapy.”
4. How did your treatment go? What were the side effects?
“No side effects. It was even nice, I was treated very well by the team who was very caring. Apart from helping, I think, to rule out surgery, everything is going very well.”
5. Do you have any advice for other patients or researchers?
“100% no chemotherapy – no rehabilitation. No hospitalization, no medication – no negative effects. I hope that because of these results, the success rates of your treatments will increase and that these treatments will be offered to other patients more easily.”
1. In what year were you diagnosed with a rectal cancer? “I saw…
1. In what year were you diagnosed with a rectal cancer?
“I saw first fresh blood spot in my stool and I went to doctor to request colonoscopy to be done. November 2019, Colonoscopy done and rectal cancer diagnosed.”
2. What treatment options were available to you?
“The treatment options available to me were surgical therapy or Radiation therapy.”
3. What was your thought process regarding your treatment choice?
“To discuss with physicians who might offer their treatment options according to tumor location, size and grade.”
4. Did you receive enough information to make a decision?
“I am quite aware regarding details of surgical treatment due to my past experience as anaesthesiologist and intensivist in Germany.”
5. You decided to participate in a research protocol. Why did you choose the Morpheus protocol?
“Dr. Vuong has explained to me radiation therapy as an alternative treatment to surgical treatment. I do accept to be part of the
6. Can you share your experience of the risks associated with a research protocol?
“The radiation therapy and following brachytherapy I had some pain during the defecation. Dr. Vuong has prescribed some treatement (like enema) which has reduced the pain and gradually defecation become easier. At that time when I was going to the toilet quite frequently, like 10-14 times a day, the stool was coming very little, I did not have any stool incontinence, sometimes I had a feeling like I should go to the toilet, but it was coming very little amount or nothing. During the radiation therapy and after, Dr. Vuong and her team have followed me up, they have examined clinically, blood investigation, rigid rectoscopy, MRI and CT scan done. They sent for referral other specialist, like internist, and gastroenterologist and surgeons according to their protocol.”
7. Do you have any advice for researchers and/or other patients based on your experience?
“I had some knowledge about radiation oncology but I wasn’t sure how it is going to affect me. But on the other side I have seen many patient after intestinal surgery, like colostomy or ileostomy because of my profession as a medical doctor. Right now it has passed almost 2 years after the first treatment started. I am eating vegetable, meat, chicken, fish, fruits and milk products without any restriction, I do not have any diarrhea or constipation. In general I do not take spicy food. I do not go to the restaurant, I am preparing my food at home. Taking enough sleep and avoid alcohol and cigarette. I am working almost 50 hours a week, physically and office work, like I was working before I was diagnosed with a rectal cancer.
The only difference is that I should be close to the toilet when I have a feeling that I should go to the toilet. I am not able to hold many hours like before the treatment. 2 years after the treatment started I am going to the toilette around 5 times a day, without any pain. I am observing my stool, there is sometimes little fresh blood sometimes clotted blood. It was explained to me it is coming from the scar. I have adapted myself to the new situation. I was playing tennis the last 20 years. After 2 years of treatment I have restarted to play tennis 2- 3 times a week almost total 6 hours in a week. Last 2 years I was worried about taking a long trip with a car or aeroplane. But now I am more confident I can take a long drive, like 6-7 hours driving.
November 2019 it was diagnosed with rectal carcinoma by long colonoscopy, and July 2021 was repeated by same doctor another long colonoscopy. And diagnosed as normal. MRI and Ct scan are also normal. Finally almost 2 years after the radiation treatment I am able to continue my life almost as before. Definitely the follow up should be done carefully as needed. I am happy that at the beginning I accepted to be enrolled in a protocol.”
Patient video testimonials
Please find here a few interviews and testimonials from patients that…
Please find here a few interviews and testimonials from patients that were treated by Dr. Vuong and her team at the Jewish General Hospital.
Veuillez trouver les interviews et témoignages de patients parlant anglais (sous-titres en français) qui ont été traités par le Dr Vuong et son équipe à l’hôpital General Juif.
Patient video testimonials
Johanne and Josée Charpentier for their mother Thérèse Mcsween Charpentier
“We are, my sister Johanne and I, the interpreters of our mother…
“We are, my sister Johanne and I, the interpreters of our mother Therese. We accompanied her to the doctor as soon as her 1st symptoms appeared in 2019.
The appearance of blood in her stools at the end of 2019 following a colonoscopy, quickly directed us to Dr. Vuong and this beautiful team of treatments for those with cancer.
From the first meeting with Dr. Vuong, we were given explanations of different treatments depending on the stage of the cancer and the level of evolution.
The options were encouraging as they all seemed promising for healing depending on the level of her cancer.
Some scenarios were outlined for selection:
– Aggressive treatments, short durations and fewer hospital stays…but with the risk of the cancer being present…the risk of experiencing surgery in the end loomed with some choices we preferred to forget. Our mother would refuse surgery if that was the final option. She would rather die.
– The combined treatments of radiation and chemotherapy as well as brachytherapy and several appointments with Dr. Vuong over the first 12 months seemed arduous but safer…we preferred to support our mother with this more prudent choice.
It must be said that our 81 year old mother had come to terms with the idea of dying as soon as the cancer was announced and she was resilient. We know that she accepted to be part of the research protocol because of our investment in her. We both accompanied her to all the meetings. We had made this ordeal a girl’s activity, a mother-daughter challenge, a memory during the pandemic while having a good time laughing about the situation…even when it was sadder.
The risks we saw during the many medical appointments for various treatments were the over-exposure during the pandemic and the many hospital trips.
On the other hand, the high risk of abandonment of the protocol and treatments on the part of our mother caused by the constant delays for her radiotherapy appointments….
– Breakage of medical equipment,
– delays in scheduling,
– organizational errors,
– lack of staff
– change of location
– waiting too long in the waiting room…8/10
My sister and I had to be patient to encourage our mother to continue her treatments….
– facilitate the transportation of patients undergoing treatment
– punctuality increases the desire to come back the next time without worrying
– promptness of hospital time is a positive mood booster
– personal care by a nurse or nurse’s aide such as a fleet would have helped greatly before treatment
– avoid all anxiety-provoking steps as much as possible
Thank you for the professional dedication of the research team, Dr. Vuong and her many challenges.
Special thanks to the nursing staff who were always kind, calm and reassuring.
Thank you for being so present at such a stressful time for our mother and us girls.
Long live science, long live scientific research and Bravo to the know-how of the team but especially to the know-how of all of you!”
Johanne and Josée Charpentier for their mother Thérèse Mcsween Charpentier
1. In what year were you diagnosed with rectal cancer? “I consid…
1. In what year were you diagnosed with rectal cancer?
“I considered myself healthy until early 2019 when I was diagnosed with rectal cancer. Treatment through radiation and chemotherapy started right away, and surgery followed some time later.”
2. In what context did you consult Dr. Vuong in our institution?
“The surgery in August 2020 appeared to be completely successful. So all were surprised when four months later the tumour had returned! Now, a second operation seemed inevitable, with “significant quality of life implications.” In view of this prospect, I asked the surgeon about the possibility of an alternative approach.”
3. What treatment options were suggested to you by your referring hospital?
“The option suggested was the second operation. However, following consultation with their team, the surgeon identified for me Dr. Té Vuong, McGill Professor, at the Jewish General Hospital, Montreal. Could Dr. Vuong’s High Dose Rate Endorectal Brachytherapy (HDREBT) solve the problem? The surgeon spoke highly of Dr. Vuong with her international reputation.
Accordingly, in May 2021 I flew to Montreal to see Dr. Vuong. Fortunately, following further testing Dr. Vuong was able to accept me as a patient for HDREBT.
Brachytherapy is not a standard treatment, what does this treatment mean to you and your family? How many sessions did you receive? Did you find this experience difficult?
Brachytherapy means there is the possibility of a cure without a second invasive surgery.
During the month of July 2021, Dr. Vuong administered three treatments of HDREBT, one a week for three weeks. My wife was able to accompany me to each appointment.
During each of the sessions Dr. Vuong and her team did all they could to make me comfortable. However, despite sedation, I did experience some discomfort. It was fully manageable though, and stopped as soon as the procedure was over.”
4. You previously received standard external beam radiation therapy and chemotherapy; what is your experience with brachytherapy compared to the other two treatments?
“Following diagnosis in 2019, I received 25 doses of external beam radiation along with chemotherapy (pills). The radiation yielded noticeable benefit and the side effects were minimal. The results of the 5-week treatment were very good – the tumour disappeared.
For continued good effect, more chemotherapy was proposed, and accepted – this time, pills plus IV. (The hope was to avoid surgery altogether. However, by the spring of 2020 the tumor had re-appeared and surgery became unavoidable.)
The pills had no noticeable side effects. However, the IV caused (temporary) sensitivity to cold, and (permanent?) damage to the nerves in the soles of my feet.
After the first round of brachytherapy, I noticed an immediate improvement in the symptoms with no significant side effects. Indeed, between each of the three weekly sessions my wife and I were able to visit some of the tourist sights of Montreal. We walked a lot! Since returning home, I have experienced almost no side effects, and continue to feel fine.
Today, the outlook seems promising. Not surprisingly, there will be close monitoring of my case over the next two years.”
5. In summary, what advantages and disadvantages did you find with brachytherapy?
“Brachytherapy involved many fewer (but longer) sessions than standard radiation – three versus 25. There was, however, some discomfort during the brachytherapy treatment. Compared to chemotherapy, brachytherapy was administered over a much shorter time period and had no troublesome side effects. Most importantly, if it is ultimately successful, brachytherapy will have precluded altogether the need for me to undergo a second invasive surgery.”
6. Do you think research in this area is important and do you have any suggestions to share with other patients and researchers?
“I very much hope that research continues into all aspects of HDREBT and its benefits. Finally, given my experience, I would strongly recommend Dr. Vuong and HDREBT for any rectal cancer patient who qualifies for the treatment.”
Video témoignages de patients
Veuillez trouver ci-joint quelques témoignages de patients qui ont été…
Veuillez trouver ci-joint quelques témoignages de patients qui ont été traité par le Dr. Vuong et son équipe à l’Hôpital Général Juif de Montréal.
Please find here a few interviews and testimonials (subtitles in English) from patients that were treated by Dr. Vuong and her team at the Jewish General Hospital.
Video témoignages de patients
1. In what year were you diagnosed with a rectal cancer? “I am…
1. In what year were you diagnosed with a rectal cancer?
“I am now 53 years old and my diagnosis of stage 3 rectal cancer was announced to me two years ago in October 2019. The diagnosis was made during a colonoscopy following reflections in my stools and a general negative examination a few months before.
2. In what context did you consult Dr. Vuong ?
“I was put in contact with Dr. Vuong when the medical team met to decide on post-surgical treatments. Two pre-surgery solutions were available to me: either, external radiotherapy and chemotherapy in reinforcement, this, for a period of 30 days, or, Brachytherapy without chemotherapy for a period of 4 consecutive days.”
3. You were given the choice of External Beam Radiation Therapy versus Brachytherapy, why did you make this choice?
“Once the different treatments with their benefits and side effects explained, and after consultation with my wife and Dr. Vuong, for me, the choice was not difficult to make and was almost instantaneous. I work in mechanical engineering, in a field of research and development. I am therefore on the lookout for technological innovations and this leads me to believe that medical technological innovations are very well founded, tested for several years and that their results are often well beyond expectations as if was the case for me.”
4. Can you share your experience of the risks associated with a research protocol?
“Certain measures are taken to determine the target and the treatment parameters. They injected a sedative at this time and thereafter at each start of the procedure. Once the parameters were revised, the Brachytherapy starts and lasts only a few minutes without any wait. Then, the instruments are removed and we are directed to the post-treatment room. The stress falls, exhaustion and fatigue are felt. Once you feel better and under nursing advice, we can leave. Days 2 and 3 of treatment were the most exhausting for me and I took longer to leave.”
5. How did the surgery go?
“The surgery required 10 hours of work in the operating room. According to my surgeon, my body responded very well to the Brachytherapy. The cancerous mass was circumscribed and the tissues were healthy around, which greatly facilitated the surgery. My rectum and thirty-one nearby lymph nodes were removed for analysis. The recovery went well without too much difficulty considering the extent of this surgery. A few weeks later the lymph node test results were all negative. What a joy. My cancer was now stage 2 instead of 3. Since no lymph nodes had been affected, the oncologist did not recommend post-preventive chemotherapy. I am currently following the post-surgery protocol (Scans and blood tests every 6 months) and I am doing very well.”
6. Do you have any advice for researchers and/or other patients based on your own experience?
“In conclusion, the results confirmed to me today that Brachytherapy was the right choice for me and built my beliefs in what attracts uncommon alternative care. If someone is lucky like me to be a candidate for Brachytherapy and to be supported by the team of Dr. Vuong and the Jewish General Hospital of Montreal, I STRONGLY encourage them to opt for this choice, and I wish them a speedy recovery as in my case.”
“At the age of 60, my family doctor diagnosed a cancer after a r…
“At the age of 60, my family doctor diagnosed a cancer after a routine test because blood was seen in my stools. I was examined by different doctors at Pierre-Boucher hospital and Dr. Vuong was made aware of my case, THANK YOU, because all the other doctors offered was an operation, chemotherapy and radiotherapy… Dr. Vuong explained the treatment and the chances of success. The Brachytherapy took place on April 1-2-3 and 4th 2011 at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal under her supervision with kind, friendly and above all, very respectful staff. My rectal cancer was something of the past without any operation or chemotherapy, which is what I wanted. Since that time, I have been followed, at the beginning every four months, then every six months and now once a year. My life is very good, the only downside is that I have to listen to my body because having bowel movements for me is 3-4 times a day! Not too high a price to pay to have a very good quality of life without a BAG and without chemo. Therefore, I would like to say thank you to my family doctor who was an IPS and to Doctor Té Vuong for allowing me to continue to have a nice quality of life at 71 years old. Thank you also to all the members of her team.”