Colon cancer cured thanks to routine screening


Kells Jesse, a production designer who lives in Venice, says that in recent years, he and his wife, Sylvia Castillo-Jesse, have made major lifestyle changes to prioritize their health. They optimized their nutrition and now eat a mostly vegan, plant-based diet; they incorporated more exercise into their routines; and last spring, they scheduled their routine colon cancer screening tests.

While Jesse had his first screening right at 50, the doctor who removed some precancerous growths called polyps, told him to return for a follow-up test in three years. Unfortunately, life got in the way, and he waited an extra two years. “I work a lot and lead a busy life,” he says, “so I always had an excuse to put it off.”

In April, he finally got a referral from his primary care physician at the Bob Hope Health Center to see Dr. Mary Farid in Santa Monica. At his appointment in June, they discussed his overdue colonoscopy and some other GI issues, and then scheduled the procedure. When Dr. Farid performed the colonoscopy in September, she saw a suspicious-looking lesion that she couldn’t easily remove. “I wasn’t 100% certain it was cancer,” she says. “But we definitely needed to rule it out.”

She removed a small tissue sample to biopsy, which pathology later confirmed was adenocarcinoma. Jesse was shocked by his diagnosis. “When I heard the word ‘cancer,’ I couldn’t grasp it,” he says. His wife jumped into action, and worked with Dr. Farid to schedule a CT scan to make sure the cancer had not spread. Dr. Farid also referred Jesse to a surgeon who could remove the lesion.

On many fronts, Jesse was lucky. While the CT scan showed a slight shadow on his liver, a follow-up MRI concluded that it was nothing to worry about. Then, after the diseased section of Jesse’s colon was removed in October, pathology confirmed the cancer had not invaded his colon’s walls or spread to his lymph nodes.

Based on these findings, Jesse was told that he did not need chemotherapy and could consider himself cancer-free. After an emotional few months, he says he couldn’t be happier with the results. “This experience changed my life,” he says.

Now, he wants to change other peoples’ lives too by sharing his story. “Friends always ask me if I had any symptoms,” Jesse says, “and the answer is no. But that’s just the point. You don’t want to wait for symptoms. You want to catch colon cancer early so that you can be cured.”


This story ran in the Colon Cancer Awareness issue of The Checkup, a UCLA Health community newsletter on how to live your healthiest life.