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Dick Ellis: Broadcasting a Message of Prevention

Publication: Austin American-Statesman, Austin

Last year—just days before his 67th birthday—longtime news anchor and reporter for KVUE and KTBC Dick Ellis was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. Upon receiving the diagnosis, his first thought was one of a true survivor.

“My first thought was, ‘What happens next?’ I thought, ‘OK, I’ve got cancer. What are we going to do to deal with it, and where do we go from here?’” said Ellis. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”

Taking counsel from his gastroenterologist, Ellis was referred to a surgeon and underwent surgery in October, two days after his birthday, to remove a portion of his colon. Ellis is currently being treated at Texas Oncology–Round Rock where he says the team—including his physician Dr. Darren Kocs and nurse practitioner Jessica Turner—has made a profound, positive impact on his fight against cancer.

“They’re marvelous people. I can’t rave enough about them,” said Ellis on the team at Texas Oncology–Round Rock. “Dr. Kocs is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He’s very to-the-point, very understanding and very supportive.”

Ellis has completed 12 chemotherapy treatments in Texas Oncology’s care and says the compassionate, dedicated nursing staff at his local practice makes a world of difference as well.

“All the nurses that I worked with, they’re so helpful,” said Ellis. “Anything you need, they’ll help you get it to help you feel more comfortable during chemo. I can’t say enough good things about them. It was actually something I looked forward to every other Tuesday,” said Ellis with a laugh.

As a broadcaster, Ellis appreciates the power of sharing a good story. Having enjoyed a long career in Austin’s TV and radio industry—most recently serving as news director at KOKE-FM—he uses his platform to spread the word about prevention. As a colon cancer survivor, Ellis stressed the importance of routine screening procedures like colonoscopies to men in the Austin area and beyond.

“I feel that it’s very important,” said Ellis. “When I was working for KOKE and was going through this, I got on the radio and said ‘You know, it may not be the most pleasant thing to do, but get it done. Don’t mess around with this.’”

Screening is essential to diagnosing colorectal cancer because the disease typically lacks symptoms in the early stages. Up to 60 percent of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if everyone age 50 and over were screened routinely and treated appropriately. It’s a message that has not only resonated with men and women around Austin, but inspired them to act.

“To this day, I have people, mostly women, who say, ‘I heard you on the radio, and because of what you did I went and had a colonoscopy. And I made sure my husband did, too,’” said Ellis.

In addition to the ongoing support Ellis is receiving at Texas Oncology, the support Ellis is receiving from his family means the world to him. Having high quality care and follow up treatment available near his home meant that Ellis’s family could be with him every step of the way.

“It means everything,” said Ellis. “Before my surgery, I had all my grandkids brought up to the hospital room, and I said, ‘I want you guys to know that what I’m getting ready to go through is very, very important. But I’m going to be fine.’”

Ellis, who has nine grandchildren, had the family gather at the hospital room again after his surgery and spoke to them about the importance of taking care of your health so that you’re able to help take care of other people.

“That’s what I try to instill in them and I think it’s paying off,” said Ellis.

Ellis and his family recently celebrated his CT scan coming back clear during a special recognition on the baseball field at Round Rock Express’ second annual Cancer Awareness Night presented by Texas Oncology on May 8. As a cancer survivor, Ellis lives a full and robust life, doing what he enjoys most—as a broadcaster, and even more importantly, as a family man.

“I enjoy being with people, having intelligent conversations, seeing what’s going on in the world and what I can do to make it better,” said Ellis. “I have plenty of church work to do, and I enjoy the heck out of my grandkids. They’re a whole lot of fun.”

Men and women age 50 and older with an average risk for developing colorectal cancer should discuss the most appropriate screening test with their physician. 

Read the story at the Austin American-Statesman.

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