Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: Local nurse honors husband’s memory with life-saving message

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Kleizer and Genesis Villorente, both nurse at Mayo Clinic, captured their love story through photos over the years. Genesis said, “My husband was incredible. He was my soulmate.”


Their story included a chapter they never imagined they would face. In May 2014, just launching into his 30′s, Kleizer was diagnosed with rectal cancer. His aggressive treatment plan included chemotherapy, radiation and surgery -- one of them just days after their wedding in Asheville, North Carolina the same year.

“The medical team at Mayo Clinic was extremely willing to work with him to help him achieve his quality of life.” Genesis said, “We traveled, he still worked, provided care for others. He, like I said, did many projects in this home and so he really loved living life.”

Kleizer passed away in August of 2022. Through ongoing advancements in treatments and clinical trials, Genesis says Kleizer defied the odds, surviving for nearly 10 years after his diagnosis, surpassing the five years he was initially given.

Genesis said, “That’s five more years of life, five more years of giving love, seeing the world, seeing the advancements.” Genesis noted that at Mayo Clinic, one of their shields is research.

Part of the ongoing research at Mayo, has led to the use of FDA-approved artificial intelligence during colonoscopies. Action News Jax Anchor Tenikka Hughes met with Dr. Jami Kinnucan, Senior Associate Consultant of Gastroenterology and Hepataology.

Dr. Kinnucan said the technology – which can detect even subtle polyps- is already enhancing their ability to spot areas of concern.

Dr. Kinnucan said, “Not all polyps can lead to cancers and so in terms of finding those polyps that can lead to cancers adenomas--- 30% increase.”

Read: Biden to seek more than $2.8B from Congress for cancer fight

The American Cancer Society predicts this year in the United States, roughly 20,000 cases and nearly 4,000 deaths will be people under the age of 50. Dr. Kinnucan says colorectal cancer is increasingly impacting younger people, but there’s not one answer as to why.

The doctor says there are lifestyle risk factors like obesity, being inactive, unhealthy diets, alcohol and tobacco use. Some patients have family history of cancer, some don’t. Others have symptoms like bloody stools, abdominal pain or weight loss and don’t realize those could be signs of cancer. Dr. Kinnucan also said many patients don’t have symptoms at all. Dr. Kinnucan stressed it is so important to get regular checkups with your doctor and get screened for colorectal cancer at 45-years-old. The doctor said if you have family history, you need to talk to your doctor about getting screened before then.

Dr. Kinnucan said, “So patients shouldn’t wait till 50. I’ve heard even within my own friend groups, people say, ‘Oh, I don’t need one and I’m not 50 yet. So I think that there’s still some opportunity for education out there.”

Increasing awareness is why Genesis wanted to share Kleizer’s story with Action News Jax.

Read: Ryan Reynolds loses bet, undergoes colonoscopy that may have saved his life when doctor finds polyp

“I would like for people to know that Kleizer was an amazing soul. He brought a ton of light to everyone that he met and that if he could go back in time, he would’ve gotten checked sooner.” Genesis said “As a legacy, he would want for those, his loved ones, friends, colleagues to get checked.”

Kleizer’s fight has already made a difference. Genesis says family members and others they know have gotten screened and are more open to talk about it. Also, Kleizer participated in different clinical trials and genesis hopes that his data will help save lives in the future.

Dr. Kinnucan provided a lot of information about symptoms, screening options and more. You can find video of our extended interview with the doctor in this story.

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