Paul Rawate has never been one to sit still. Whether it was getting his blackbelt in Taekwondo at just 8 years old or growing up to run a successful business, the 45-year-old has always kept his eye on the next challenge.
In 2018, Rawate faced an entirely new obstacle when he was diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer. While this has proven to be his toughest challenge yet, he has found Dana-Farber to be a source of comfort not only for himself but also his wife, Meena Jacob, and their 8-year-old son, Rajan.
“Being at Dana-Farber not only opened up new treatment options but has also given us the support we need,” explains Rawate.
Strange signs, then a diagnosis
Looking back, Rawate says there were clear signs leading up to his diagnosis that something wasn’t right. As early as 2012, he was having stomach troubles; then his weight started fluctuating.
In the spring of 2018, as his stomach troubles and pain continued to intensify, Rawate was referred to a gastroenterologist — an expert who diagnoses and treats problems in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and liver. He underwent both an ultrasound and colonoscopy, which is used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine (colon) and rectum.
These tests helped reveal the true cause of his symptoms: colorectal adenocarcinoma with metastasis in the liver, or stage IV colon cancer. Rawate wasn’t angry or scared about this diagnosis; instead, he was relieved.
“The diagnosis finally ended my frustration, and all of the symptoms made sense,” he recalls. “I finally knew what I was up against, and I was able to focus on beating it.”
A second opinion at Dana-Farber
Initially, Rawate underwent treatment at a hospital close to his home. Surgeons were able to successfully remove the mass in his colon, and ongoing chemotherapy treatments kept his cancer from spreading. However, as his condition and situation changed, Rawate sought a second opinion on the guidance of a family friend and colon cancer researcher.
That search led him to Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, where Rawate would have access to various clinical trials. Rawate previously had his tumor genetically sequenced, a process that revealed a wild-type KRAS gene (indicating the gene has not mutated) as well as BRAF and PIK3CA mutations. These genetic markers made him eligible for different targeted-therapy drugs.
In addition to gaining access to the latest therapies and clinical trials, Rawate’s whole family would be able to use the Institute’s support services, including support groups, yoga, and meditation as well as the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center, which is dedicated to young patients with colorectal cancer and the unique challenges they face.
While all of these factors were important, Rawate says what truly sold him on transferring his care was a meeting with the oncologist who would be leading his treatment plan: Nadine McCleary, MD, MPH, senior physician at the Center for Gastrointestinal Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s.
“With Dr. McCleary, I knew I was always going to get the highest-level care,” Rawate says. “She’s been incredibly supportive, and I trust her opinion on different treatment options and when we should take chances.”
Since coming to Dana-Farber, Rawate has received a few different treatment regimens and is currently on a FOLFIRI chemotherapy regimen in combination with the drug panitumumab. Today, Rawate is tolerating the treatment well, and it’s been effective at keeping his cancer under control.
“Paul and his wife are a fantastic team, and their level of communication and love is evident,” says Kathleen Boyle, PA-C, Rawate’s physician assistant. “He has an incredibly sweet personality and he’s always smiling.”
An outdoor enthusiast, Rawate’s favorite part of his family’s home is their large backyard. There, he and Rajan will often play T-ball, play catch, and work on their Taekwondo. A former collegiate golfer, Rawate is also introducing his son to golf, and is turning an old garden into a new golf practice facility for the two of them.
Rawate says he’s also working on exercising and healthy eating. For him, these are ways to take back control of his life and be there for each special family moment.
“As cancer patients I think we’re all on the same journey, with everyone having a unique story to tell,” explains Rawate. “I’m happy to be active and working to defeat this disease.”