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Going afar for cancer treatment

Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 9:15 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 9:15 a.m.

It would seem that life was going smoothly for 30-year-old Lucas Brooks. Married with two young children, He and his wife, Megan O’Brien, were just moving in to Brooks’ childhood home in east Petaluma when life took an unexpected turn.

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Lucas Brooks

Courtesy of Lucas Brooks

“After the move in 2009, I started to notice a little pain in my right lower abdomen,” said Brooks. “I went to the doctor to see what was going on. The idea was that I had a poor diet and possibly an ulcer. I went home and changed my diet immediately.”

Brooks grew up in Petaluma with his parents, Victor and Deborah Brooks, and two brothers and a sister. He and his siblings all graduated from Casa Grande High School and all worked as newspaper carriers for the Petaluma Argus-Courier.

“I delivered the route in my neighborhood for almost eight years,” said Brooks, who began delivering papers at age 7. “I only stopped because I got my drivers license and needed to make more money for insurance and gas.”

After high school, he went into plumbing and now works as a plumber with the United Association Local 38 in San Francisco.

With a family of his own and a new home, life was moving in a great direction for Brooks, except for the odd pain in his abdomen that continued despite changing his diet.

“Every time I went back to the doctor, it was the same thing — change your diet,” said Brooks, who was becoming very frustrated with the doctor’s inability to tell him what was wrong.

In July 2010, Brooks was admitted to the hospital with a ruptured appendix. When the surgeon saw him after the surgery, he commented that Brooks’ appendix “looked weird,” but attributed it to the appendix festering for months. It was also ruled the cause of his abdominal pain.

Because of Brooks’ age, the doctors didn’t feel there was any reason to do a biopsy to see what else might be going on.

“I went home from the hospital feeling well, but only for a week,” he said. “At this point, I was done waiting for any more appointments, so we pushed and pushed until we finally got a colonsocopy appointment scheduled.”

It was the colonoscopy that revealed some startling news — Brooks had a large growth in the cecum, a large pouch at the beginning of the large intestine. Not long after that discovery, it was determined that the growth was stage four colon cancer. He was quickly scheduled for surgery.

“My initial reaction was fear,” he said. “I have a wife and two small children. What was my outcome to be? This is pretty hard news for anyone and it takes a little while for it to sink in.”

During surgery, the doctor discovered that the mass had grown through the colon wall and attached to his abdominal cavity. Four of the 27 lymph nodes that were removed were also positive for cancer. Eighteen inches of his large intestine were removed.

Brooks recovered well from surgery and started six months of intensive chemotherapy, which ended in November of 2010 with a scan that indicated he was cancer-free. It was exciting news, but Brooks said the relief was short lived. Six months later a follow-up scan found he had lesions on his liver.

“It was suggested at this point I undergo a different chemotherapy,” he said. “I did it for 11 weeks with no results.”

Frustrated, he went back and did another six rounds of his original chemotherapy treatment, which proved very hard on his body. He began to lose feeling in his feet because of it. The lesions began to disappear, so treatment was stopped for a while.

In the spring of 2012, Brooks joined a clinical trial for a special cancer treatment at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center. At first the treatment seemed to help, but two months later it stopped working.

“I was given two options at this point,” said Brooks. “One was to take a medication that would not stop the cancer from growing, but slow its progression. The other was to go back on the original treatment that I had done, which left me with no feeling in my feet. I chose to slow the cancer’s progression as I explored other options for alternative treatments.”

Discouraged with western medicine, Brooks began searching online for alternative cancer treatments in other countries. For Brooks’ specific cancer, the Klinik Marinus am Stein in Brannenburg, Germany was the recommended choice.

“I sent all my medical records to Dr. Weber in Germany and he responded quickly and told me he could treat me,” said Brooks. “At this point I got ready to head over to Germany. After I decided that this was what I was going to do, I posted it to Facebook. A lot of my friends had been following my progress with this disease.”

Friends, family and members of the community were quick to offer help. Teri Velasco of Velasco’s restaurant contributed $2,000 toward medical bills last October. Most recently, Brooks’ friend John Busick set up a website at www.giveforward.com to help raise money for medical bills. In the first 48 hours, the site generated $10,000. Rip City Riders, a local motorcycle club, donated an additional $1,100 to the fund, along with another $1,500 raised by Brooks’ co-workers at Merilich Mechanical.

“I was absolutely amazed at how much money people were willing to donate to support everything that was going on with me,” said Brooks. “This is all just monetary support, but not to mention that I have received hundreds of responses, posts, love, you name it, from my Facebook friends and family.”

The donation page at www.giveforward.com will remain open until March 18.

“I would like to thank each and every one of the people who have donated and who have sent prayers,” he said. “I am forever grateful for the generosity and kindness and love that has been shown from my friends, family and community.”

Brooks arrived at the clinic in Germany on Feb. 24 and will be receiving treatment there through March 17. His alternative therapies at the clinic include magnetic field treatment, biomat oxygen infused treatment, oxygen infused blood treatment, vitamin infusions, mistletoe injections, vitamin C infusions and other vitamin/mineral treatments.

“So far, the treatments in Germany are different to say the least from Western medicine,” he said. “I continue to look forward to seeing the results of the treatment, but won’t know anything for at least a week.”

Brooks remains positive and always ready to chat with and encourage other patients at the clinic he meets who are in the same boat. He’s also very open about his experience with cancer. He is keeping a daily blog about his time in Germany online at http://lucasbrooks7682.blogspot.com.

He added that he’s learned a lot about himself during this unexpected health challenge.

“Living with cancer is hard,” he said. “You need to be able to hold it together as much as possible, for your family’s sake. One thing that I have learned is that you can never take today for granted because you are only given today. You don’t know if tomorrow will be, so you have to make the best of what you get. Was I dealt a crappy hand in life? Possibly. I might be too young for this, but I’m going to make the best of it because it is my life and it is my reality. I refuse to let cancer kill me. I have too much to live for.”

(Contact Yovanna Bieberich at yo vanna.bieberich@arguscourier.com)

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