Shawn L I’m in Good Hands Here - Shawn's Colon Cancer Story

"When you go through an experience like this and feel that everybody you come in contact with, that's working on your case, is there for you — that feeling of being alone just dissipates."

Shawn Leyden was diagnosed with colon cancer and he was treated at Saint Barnabas Medical Center. Shawn is now cancer free.

“I regret not keeping my scheduled colonoscopy appointment,” says Shawn Leyden, 63, of Maplewood. “If I’d stuck with what my doctor told me to do, I might not have gotten colon cancer, or I at least could have avoided the need for a six-and-a-half-hour surgery,” he says.

A busy executive at the state’s largest electric and gas provider, Shawn, was on an aggressive every-other-year colonoscopy schedule due to a family history of colon cancer. Four years ago, however, he missed a scheduled colonoscopy that might have caught his colon cancer earlier.

When he finally did have it, Mark Gilder, MD, his surgeon at Saint Barnabas Medical Center (SBMC), who is also a member of RWJBarnabas Health medical group, found a large polyp. It was later removed with minimally invasive robotic surgery. “Dr. Gilder spent a lot of time with me and my wife, explaining everything that needed to be done,” Shawn says.

Though the surgery was a long one, Shawn recovered quickly, thanks to the Comprehensive Recovery Pathway, a “prehabilitation” program of intensive patient preparation that has significantly reduced SBMC colorectal surgery patients’ length of stay in the hospital. “He was able to comfortably leave the hospital after just 24 hours and begin his rehabilitation,” Dr. Gilder says.

Unfortunately, test results after surgery confirmed that the cancer had spread to a lymph node. Shawn and his wife met with medical oncologist Delia Radovich, MD. “She was incredibly empathetic and caring,” Shawn says. “Her dad had had colon cancer, and she absolutely knew what I was thinking.”

Through the testing, surgery and chemotherapy, Shawn has made many trips to SBMC. “Through all of this, I knew I couldn’t be in better hands,” he says.

Now, he’s been cancer-free for nearly three years and is telling his story in the hope that it will encourage others to get screened. “Compared to the surgery and other treatment, the prep needed for a colonoscopy is no big deal,” Shawn says. “I regret not keeping to my schedule, and I don’t want anyone else to go through what I did. It’s avoidable.”

To schedule an appointment with one of our cancer specialists, click here or call (844)-CANCERNJ or (844) 226-2376.