Debra Martin-ez looking down at a blue glass in an antique shop, used to explain her colorectal cancer recovery

Colorectal cancer survivor looks and feels ‘like a million bucks’

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When Debra Martin-ez walked into her doctor’s office late last year, he almost didn’t recognize her. That’s how far the 68-year-old Dallas woman has come after being diagnosed with colorectal cancer more than a year ago.   

The transformation was undeniable, says Anand Lodha, MD, colorectal surgeon on the medical staff at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. Dr. Lodha was part of the cadre of medical specialists who have been caring for Debra since her diagnosis in August 2022. 

“She looked like a million bucks,” Dr. Lodha says of that recent follow-up. “I said, ‘Who are you? I’m looking for Ms. Martin-ez.’” 

And Debra says she feels better, too. While her health may still require some monitoring, she’s back to drinking her beloved iced tea, eating her favorite dishes, and going to the gym. Her cancer journey also taught her a valuable lesson about the importance of taking preventive measures like getting a colonoscopy.  

“I was taught, ‘If you’re not sick, you don’t need to go to the doctor,’” says Debra, who’s grateful to have had her son, her friends, and an expert team by her side through it all. “I never had a bad experience at Methodist Dallas.”

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For years, Debra assumed there was no need for annual checkups because she felt fine. But when troubling intestinal symptoms finally pushed her to see a doctor, the cancer had already grown. A colonoscopy revealed she had developed a large tumor in her rectum.  

“My physician told me that type of cancer takes five to 10 years to reach that size,” she says, “It would have been found sooner if I had undergone a preventative colonoscopy.” 

But instead of lamenting over what she had or hadn’t done, the team of oncologists, surgeons, pathologists, and radiologists on the medical staff at Methodist Dallas helped Debra move forward. 

“We have a tumor board here dedicated to rectal cancer,” Dr. Lodha says. “It’s a multidisciplinary approach.” 

Debra Martin-ez and her friend Gloria Williams looking toward a table at an antique shop.

Debra (right) enjoys shopping with her friend Gloria Williams.


The first step was for Debra to start total neoadjuvant therapy (TNT), an effective but grueling combination of chemotherapy and radiation treatments administered before surgery. Debra had to do it five days each week for eight months.  

It was an uphill battle during which time Debra developed nerve issues in her hands, feet, and throat, preventing her from enjoying certain foods and drinks. Her white blood cell count dropped, and she eventually had to go into lockdown to lower the risk of infections. She says it was a dark and anxiety-filled time, but Dr. Lodha encouraged her to keep going. 

“I said, ‘You come to my office and cry every time, but you still come to my office,’” Dr. Lodha recounts. “I told her, ‘There is steel in you, and I know it.’”

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Debra says she never felt alone at Methodist Dallas because someone was always there to answer her questions — like Stephanie Hepner, a patient navigator whose job it is to guide people like Debra through the winding steps of their healthcare journey, and Danielle Fortado, RN, a nurse who leads a patient support group. 

The pair offered Debra advice on how to ward off nausea, a common side effect of her treatments, and helped her overcome a major fear. 

“I have a diagnosed phobia of needles, and here I was getting poked all the time. But they came up with different ways to draw blood,” says Debra, who called the hospital staff “little angels.” 

Debra Martin-ez and her friend Gloria Williams embracing in a hug.

Debra counted on the support of good friends, like Gloria, and the Methodist Dallas staff.


Debra finished TNT in time to undergo surgery on July 19, 2023. And when she had trouble with her ileostomy bag, she was able to text Danielle for help. Finally, six weeks after Dr. Lodha removed the tumor, Debra got some major news: She was cancer-free. 

“He stood back, folded his arms with a big old smile on his face, and said, ‘Look at you! Just look at you!‘” Debra recalls.  

Now, after a second surgery in October to remove her ileostomy bag, Debra says she feels more like herself again. She also has a message for anyone who scoffs at regular checkups and screenings. 

“Get your colonoscopy,” she says. “I don’t care if you feel fine, just do it!”