New England may be known for its harsh weather, but it’s never stopped Kyle Vinson from getting out and doing what he loves. An avid skier and golfer, the Massachusetts resident prides himself on once doing both in the same day.
When he was diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer in 2020, the 38-year-old had to temporarily take a break from both. After care he’s received at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, he is doing well and has his sights set on returning to the outdoors soon.
A fateful trip
In December 2019, Vinson began experiencing sharp shoulder pain. He went to urgent care, where he was diagnosed with a SLAP tear — a tearing of the cartilage found in the shoulder joint.
From the beginning, Vinson’s then-fiancé and now wife, Erin, a nurse at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, didn’t think the diagnosis made sense.
Their initial assessment turned out to be true when Vinson returned to urgent care the following month to address the worsening pain. This time, Vinson underwent a series of blood tests and an ultrasound, which led to the discovery of multiple spots located on his liver.
A biopsy revealed a disease neither Vinson nor his wife could have predicted: metastatic colon cancer that had spread to his liver.
“I remember thinking, ‘Why me?’” Vinson recalls.
A source of hope
Vinson was placed under the care of Benjamin L. Schlechter, MD, an oncologist at the Center for Gastrointestinal Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. Initially, Vinson received some of his treatment in New York, but later transferred the entirety of his care to Dana-Farber.
Before this transition, surgeons had been able to remove a majority of the cancer located in Vinson’s colon. However, the disease was still in his liver, and had spread to his lungs.
Immediately, Vinson began chemotherapy, and today is on a combination of chemotherapy drugs known as FOLFOX, which is commonly used to treat colorectal cancer. Since transitioning his care to Dana-Farber, Vinson’s cancer has remained stable.
“Kyle is an incredibly insightful, nice, smart guy, with an amazing support system and partner in his wife,” says Schlechter.
Part of a trend
Vinson is part of troubling trend in colorectal cancer diagnoses. Once rare in young adults under the age of 50, colorectal cancer incidence has been steadily rising in this demographic, and researchers are having a hard time identifying the reasons why. Young adults need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer and should begin regular colorectal cancer screenings starting at 45, Schlechter notes.
[Learn more about the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer.]
Vinson says the hardest part of everything has been not being able to see friends and family due to the restrictions put in place from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, he’s found comfort in talking through his disease with members of his care team at Dana-Farber. Vinson has also participated in virtual conference calls organized by Dana-Farber’s Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center — one of the first centers in the country dedicated to young patients with colorectal cancer.
Despite the difficult journey, Vinson has found moments worth celebrating. In January, he and Erin got married. Friends surprised them on the common outside the Natick, Massachusetts courthouse where the two were signing their marriage certificate.
Moving forward, Vinson is looking forward to enjoying more joyous moments — and of course, returning to his golf and ski routine.
“My wife, and my support system, have really kept me going through all of this,” he says.