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Rhonda Daniel Overcame Cancer With Radiation, Chemotherapy — And Robotic-assisted Surgery

Rhonda Daniel’s cancer diagnosis shook her to her core, but the advanced care she needed to overcome cancer and continue her busy life was closer than she thought.

After being diagnosed with colorectal cancer and told she would need radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, Daniel was feeling overwhelmed.

“Everything was just such a shock to me because I had always been so healthy,” Daniel said. “We have no cancer in our family — not even in our extended family — and I didn’t smoke and I have never been overweight.”

Daniel said her oncologist told her they would first shrink the tumor with radiation and chemotherapy and then send her for surgery to remove any remaining cancer. In May 2017, she met with David Griffin, MD, a board-certified general surgeon with Carrollton Surgical Group, part of Tanner Medical Group.

“I had never heard of robotic surgery,” Daniel said. “Dr. Griffin broke everything down for me and even drew a little sketch so I’d understand how it works.”

Dr. Griffin removed the tumor using Tanner’s state-of-the-art da Vinci robotic-assisted surgery system during a procedure that lasted more than six hours.

“Traditional colorectal surgery would’ve involved a long incision and often made for painful, difficult recoveries,” said Dr. Griffin. “With the robotic-assisted approach, we’re able to perform even more complicated procedures with just a series of small incisions no wider than a dime. Patients experience less blood loss, fewer complications and a less painful recovery.”

Dr. Griffin said the robotic approach also reduces the risk for infection and causes less trauma to the body’s tissues.

“It was so much less invasive and I was able to heal more quickly,” Daniel said. “It’s remarkable how much better my experience was compared to the stories you hear from people who had this surgery the traditional way.”

Daniel, who lives in Villa Rica, said she spent only two nights in the hospital after surgery.

“The next morning after surgery, I just felt like I had to get up and get out of the bed,” Daniel said. “I was up and walking down the hall.”

She remembers having some soreness and pain that was managed with a little bit of pain medication.

“Within three weeks, I was returning to work a bit,” Daniel said. “Everyone else said they were barely able to walk at six weeks with the traditional surgery, so I knew that robotic surgery was the best possible way to go.”

Her doctor told her to consider it a yearlong healing process for her body, said Daniel, adding that it was also a time of reflection.

“It was an eye opener in so many ways about what is really important in life,” Daniel said. “I think about what I have been through with the grace of God and I give God all the credit for getting me through this.”

She also volunteers to talk to patients with similar diagnoses to help them navigate their treatment and recovery.

“It hasn’t stopped me for a moment,” Daniel said. “I go to work every day, and I go about my life as normal.”

Daniel has a very busy job as vice president of sales at ATCO International, a chemical company in Marietta. Daniel, who has been at the company for almost 30 years, oversees three offices of inside sales, as well as outside sales throughout the Southeast.

“I’m grateful to be alive,” Daniel said. “I have a husband, two children and two grandchildren — and I want to be here with them.”

Daniel travels to several different offices each week for work and she stays active in her spare time. She loves being outside and enjoys hiking and spending weekends at her family’s vacation home in the mountains in Tennessee.

Daniel, who turns 63 in July, makes it clear how she feels about having been through such a difficult experience.

“I can’t say it has been easy and I never dreamed I’d be dealing with this, but here I am by the grace of God,” Daniel said. “I’m just so blessed to be here, and I want to help other people who are going through this.”

Click the links to learn more about minimally invasive surgery and robotic surgery at Tanner and watch videos on robotic-assisted surgery. To make an appointment with a surgeon at Carrollton Surgical Group, call 678.506.7835.

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