Colon Cancer Survivor Tim Plough Reflects on the Fight of His Life and Why He Was Determined to Win It

Let’s get it.

  • Category
    Health, Homes
  • Written & photographed by
    Kat Monk

In the summer of 2019, Palos Verdes resident Tim Plough was bodysurfing at the Manhattan Beach Pier when he felt a significant pain. He recently had been diagnosed with a hernia and had been taking it easy. But this felt different.

While walking up a hill, his body started going numb. He remembers that the pain on a scale of 1 to 10 was a 24. What came next was an unexpected nightmare.

Tim was experiencing a ministroke due to a powerful mass that had developed in his lower abdomen, shutting his body down. A ministroke occurs when the blood flow is interrupted; it could signal that a full-blown stroke is on the way.

Suspecting something severe, he packed his overnight bag and went to the hospital. After a full week of tests, Tim’s doctor delivered the news: He had Stage IV colon cancer.

Two options were available. The doctor could try to remove the mass surgically, or he could make Tim comfortable for the next couple months before he died. One of the deadliest forms of cancer, colon cancer often gives no early warning signs.

The father of two teenagers, Tim wasn’t about to let it end his life. “I’m not leaving this world,” he thought. “I’m not ready. Let’s get it.”

Tim’s doctor, Son Nguyen, MD, of the Association of South Bay Surgeons, was going on a family vacation to Hawaii the next day. Tim pleaded, “I can’t wait the weekend until you get back knowing I might only have a couple months to live.”

“As I fought my fight, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from my family, friends and this amazing community that has been my home for my entire life.”

“Okay, let’s go get it,” replied the doctor. Within 30 minutes, Tim was in surgery at Torrance Memorial Medical Center with a cardiologist and 12 surgical personnel ready to remove the mass that had begun shutting down his body.

After a 4½-hour surgery, Dr. Nguyen assured Tim that he was pleased with the results. The cancer was directly behind the mass, and Dr. Nguyen was able to remove it before it spread throughout Tim’s body.

Tim did have a couple emergency setbacks that included infections. His body was also very weak, and for about 18 days he lived on ice chips. He lost 50 pounds during this time.

Radiation and chemotherapy came three weeks after the surgery. According to Katherine Roth, Tim’s oncologist at UCLA, “He seems to have had a complete response to the chemotherapy and radiation.”

“Initially there was still residual disease after the surgery because of the extensive invasion of his tumor into his abdominal wall and muscle,” explains Dr. Nguyen, who adds that Tim’s latest PET scan did not show any residual disease. “Continued surveillance is very important to catch any recurrence.”

Every five months, Tim goes in for a new PET scan to make sure he has no residual disease and continues to be in remission. “My will to fight was driven by my desire to be there for my sons,” he says. “It was an out-of-body experience to share with my boys that I was going to survive.”

With a new lease on life, he beams with happiness and gratitude that he has the opportunity to continue to father his boys. JD graduated Peninsula High School this year and will play basketball for the University of Arizona. Matt is 20 and planning to transfer to Loyola Marymount University in the fall.

Tim shares, “As I fought my fight, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from my family, friends and this amazing community that has been my home for my entire life.”