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Shurtleff vows to survive cancer



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SALT LAKE CITY — Thirteen-year-old Annie Shurtleff expects her dad will still be walking around the house with his "pretty-boy swagger" even after 12 rounds of chemotherapy, which are expected to begin in January.

"A lot of people ask me about it and I don't know, I'm cool with it," she said Tuesday during a press conference where Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, 53, talked about his recent cancer diagnosis.

"You just never think it is going to be you," he said.

But with the same enthusiasm he used to face at least 26 orthopedic surgeries in his life, Shurtleff said he considers the cancer "totally curable."

"I'm going to fight. I'm a fighter and I'm going to fight it hard."

Shurtleff, who went to doctors earlier this year after feeling a sharp pain in his stomach while exercising, stands to enhance his survivability by about 17 percent with chemotherapy, according to Utah Cancer Specialists' Dr. Richard Frame. Statistically, 41 percent of patients with the same condition would die within five years without any type of treatment.

"He is in the fight for his life and chemotherapy is going to be an important part of that," Frame said.

Upon emergency appendectomy surgery nearly two weeks ago, doctors discovered Stage 3 adenocarcinoma, a malignant tumor, in Shurtleff's appendix. Frame said mucus had been emitted from the tumor into an area of the small intestine, potentially spreading the cancerous cells. As a precaution, doctors also removed a portion of Shurtleff's colon, small intestine and at least 20 lymph nodes.

Frame said three of those 20 nodes tested positive for cancer.

Six months of chemotherapy is expected to rid Shurtleff's body of any cancer cells "hiding out," Frame said, adding that Shurtleff's condition is one of the most common forms of colon cancer. Frame said he treats patients with similar diagnoses daily in his office and is very confident in a predicted positive outcome for Shurtleff.

Beginning sometime in January, Shurtleff will visit the clinic once every two weeks for a round of the heavy-hitting medications. Frame says a total of 12 treatments will ensure the best results for Shurtleff.

"I think he needs to be careful. He's going to be tired. It's going to be a fatigue he's never felt before," Shurtleff's wife, M'Liss Shurtleff, said. "But he'll do what he's going to do. There's always something cooking in that head of his."

Shurtleff said that although he might get tired and feel weak, he will continue working throughout his treatment — from his hospital bed if he has to. He also plans to attend the March meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General in Washington, D.C.

"I don't expect to die, but if I do, I don't want to have regrets," Shurtleff said, tears in his eyes while tightly holding his wife's hand. "I don't think I do with my professional life, but I have neglected my family in the past. That has changed."

His wife is hopeful they'll make it to Hawaii to celebrate the couple's 30th anniversary at the end of June.

"I don't want the gloom and doom out there because we don't feel like there's gloom and doom. We all really feel peaceful," he wife said.

While Shurtleff is big on social media, he doesn't plan on blogging about his cancer, but said his office will be revealing something new at the end of the year. He is, however, open to being an advocate for early cancer detection and though he avoided getting his first colonoscopy by age 50, he now believes they're useful.

"They really aren't that bad," he said.

Compiled with contributions from wleonard@desnews.com and Jennifer Stagg

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