Colorectal cancer survivor urges others to get screened early

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – David McDonald, 55, of Morgantown, didn’t expect a cancer diagnosis when he brought up some symptoms he had been having during a doctor’s appointment for stomach pain. He mentioned to his doctor that he had been having some rectal bleeding, and his family doctor sent him for further tests to find the cause.

David McDonald
David McDonald

McDonald was diagnosed with stage III rectal cancer. He was referred to Nezar Jrebi, M.D., surgical oncologist at the WVU Cancer Institute, for treatment.

“It turned my world upside down,” McDonald said. “My wife, Dorrit, kept on me to tell my doctor about the symptoms I’d been having and, the next thing I knew, I was discussing options for surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.”

McDonald underwent robotic surgery to remove the cancerous part of his rectum, resulting in a colostomy. He also received radiation and chemotherapy in order to ensure the cancer would not return.

“Dr. Jrebi was great to work with,” McDonald said. “He was down to earth and personable. He made sure I understood what was going on and made me feel comfortable with asking questions.”

After McDonald completed his treatment for rectal cancer, he was diagnosed with Waldenstrom macroglobulinemia, a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was recently diagnosed with glioblastoma multiformae, a type of brain cancer.

“Through my new cancer diagnoses, Dr. Jrebi continued to keep an eye on me to make sure I was taken care of because that’s just the type of guy he is,” McDonald said. “These new cancers aren’t related in any way to the rectal cancer, but he keeps checking in to make sure I’m still doing well. My rectal cancer has been in remission for three years.”

McDonald encourages everyone to receive regular colorectal cancer screening so that any signs of cancer can be caught early, when it is easily treatable. 

“Sometimes we ignore symptoms and hide pain because we are reluctant to go to the doctor,” McDonald said. “I would take that back today and get to the doctor as early as possible so that my cancer could have been treated sooner.”

Despite ongoing treatment for glioblastoma, McDonald remains active in his church and continues to help teach its teenage Sunday school class.

“Having cancer changed my life,” McDonald said. “I learned to not sweat the small stuff and to focus on reaching out and helping other people. I like to help others through their struggles, whether that means giving them a new winter coat or just listening to what they are going through.”

For more information on the WVU Cancer Institute, visit