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The Cutting Edge - Getting to YES

Cutting Edge Spring 2012

Getting to YES

Date: March 1, 2012


The circumstances behind Suzanne Merrill’s diagnosis of rectal cancer are somewhat unusual. While rectal and intestinal cancers are not uncommon themselves, it’s rare for these conditions to develop directly as a result of Crohn’s disease, which was the case for Merrill.

Because her condition had compromised other areas as well, she was experiencing a considerable amount of pain. Her treatment would require not only an extensive operation, but extensive cooperation among several branches of surgery, across departments and disciplines. Fortunately, that kind of collaboration is not uncommon at Johns Hopkins, where multidisciplinary care is widely accepted as best practice.

Of course, aside from the obvious challenges and risks associated with such a difficult surgery, there were other obstacles to consider—chief among them the hesitations and reservations of Mrs. Merrill.

Like so many patients in similar situations, the idea of receiving a permanent colostomy was off-putting, to say the least. Some people even decide not to have the surgery—a risky decision at best, a fatal one at worst. Then, of course, there were the concerns about enduring such a complicated procedure and recovery—particularly after a difficult month of radiation. But, we all knew that if she did not have the operation, the end result would be tragic.

Fortunately, Mrs. Merrill recognized this and eventually made the decision to have the surgery, which was successful. Even after she had to be rehospitalized with an infection, she continues to do well and thrive.

—Jonathan Efron

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