Convinced they were looking after their health, Rita Stonitsch and her husband did a home colon cancer screening. When her husband’s test came back positive, he followed up with a doctor.
Luckily, the test had given him a false positive and he was fine. Since Rita’s test came back negative, she thought she was in the clear and the couple carried on with their lives. However, it was then Rita started experiencing issues.
“I went in for a colonoscopy because I was having trouble going to the bathroom,” she shares. “My doctor couldn’t get in very far and referred me to Dr. Barrat. I got in right away and the ball started rolling from there.”
Cory Barrat, MD, is one of our physicians and a board-certified specialist in colon and rectal surgery. He is also part of the rectal program at The Jewish Hospital – Mercy Health. This program is accredited by the NAPRC, the National Accreditation Program for Rectal Cancer, and is the only accredited program in all of central and southern Ohio.
Dr. Barrat ordered additional advanced testing for Rita. Then, on Oct. 22, 2020, Rita learned she had stage 3 rectal cancer.
The multidisciplinary rectal cancer program team at The Jewish Hospital got to work right away and reviewed her case at their meeting.
“The review works as a built-in second opinion to make sure we’ve completed all care measures and coordinated the patient’s care among all the various specialists involved,” Dr. Barrat shares. “This review is especially important and valuable because of how complex rectal cancer treatment can be.”
“Dr. Barrat is fantastic,” Rita adds. “I think he is the best there is. He’s frank, nice, polite and doesn’t use big words. He talks so you understand and he doesn’t sugarcoat things. On a scale of one to 10, I give him 1,000.”
Dr. Barrat referred Rita to an oncologist who treated her with chemotherapy and radiation to shrink the tumor. Then, in May of 2021, Dr. Barrat removed the tumor through minimally invasive robotic surgery. Once it was removed, Dr. Barrat connected her colon back together and performed a temporary ileostomy on Rita’s right side so her surgical site could heal.
“My father had colon cancer and had his large intestine removed,” Rita shares. “He wore a bag permanently for 35 years. When this happened to me, I might have cried once but I didn’t dwell on it since he did great. I never let myself get down or depressed or anything. I’ve talked with other patients going through something like me and I’ve told them the need to keep a positive attitude, because if they don’t, they are just hurting themselves.”
Rita was able to have her temporary ileostomy reversed after 30 days.
“At The Jewish Hospital, you couldn’t ask for better people. All of them made me feel like number one on their list that day,” she says.
Rita underwent four more chemotherapy sessions after surgery. Follow-up tests show that her cancer has not returned. Next up for Rita is a colonoscopy and CAT scan in May of this year to ensure she remains cancer-free.
“I will definitely do my follow-up and not miss anything. It’s so important,” Rita says. “I think everyone should go and have a colonoscopy done. If I’d had one, it may have found something sooner.”
Learn more about the colon and rectal cancer services we offer at Mercy Health.