Team Approach Helps Local Resident Beat Cancer


In the fall of 2020, just six weeks after her wedding, Shauna Leeser of Taylor, Missouri began having stomach issues and pain which prompted her to visit her primary care physician Dr. Erick Calmet at Hannibal Regional Medical Group. To get to the root of the issue, Dr. Calmet referred her to Dr. Khulood Ahmed, a gastroenterologist at Hannibal Regional Medical Group, for a colonoscopy. Shortly before her 40th birthday, Shauna got the shocking news that she had Stage 2 rectal cancer. “Ironically the pain I was experiencing was actually from ulcers, but during the colonoscopy they also found a tumor,” explains Shauna.

Shauna chose to begin her chemotherapy treatment at the Hannibal Regional Cancer Institute. “Having cancer is like being on a rollercoaster; it’s a fast-moving ride that you have no control over. I felt frozen and unsure what to do.” Shauna decided that she had to trust that her physicians at Hannibal Regional Medical Group were doing everything that could be done. “My questions and concerns were always listened to and taken seriously, which made it easy for me to trust in them. I never once felt hopeless because of that.” Shauna also credits her chemo nurse Ellen for comforting, encouraging and pushing her through the difficult and scary times.

Shauna would joke that she was checking into “Hotel HRH” because of how friendly and accommodating the nursing staff was during each of her encounters. “Seeing the same smiling faces each time I came for a procedure was comforting,” she shares. Shauna credits not only the outstanding medical care of her physicians, but also the dedication and compassion of the team members as the reason she continues to choose Hannibal Regional for her healthcare needs.

Once Shauna began to dig into her family’s medical history she discovered that her fraternal grandfather and a first cousin had also battled colon cancer. With the help of genetic testing, Shauna was diagnosed with Lynch syndrome, an inherited disorder that increases the risk of many types of colon and rectal cancers. “This information is particularly important because I have five daughters, and knowing if they also have this disease is very helpful in preventing them from going through what I did,” Shauna says that people with a family history of colon cancer are encouraged to have this genetic testing done by age 27 so that if they are at higher risk they can begin the screening process earlier.

Shauna is now in remission but continues to visit Dr. Palka, hematologist and oncologist at the Hannibal Regional Cancer Institute for follow-ups. She enjoys stopping by to see those same familiar faces that were there during a very scary time in her life. And now that her cancer battle is behind her she and her husband are looking forward to finally enjoying their postponed honeymoon.

To learn more about prevention, treatment or risk of developing colorectal cancer, call to schedule an appointment with one of the gastroenterologists at Hannibal Regional Medical Group (573) 629-3500.