April = Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month
A lot of pictures/info graphics below.
Ever since my husband was diagnosed with Esophageal cancer life has been a whirlwind journey and roller coaster. While he refuses to join social media, it has been my largest source of support. In joining with the other warriors and caregivers of this beast of a disease, I have met and had the honor of knowing some of the bravest people in my life. It is with a heavy heart that I have to acknowledge far too many have become angels just in the time my husband has been diagnosed and gone through treatment and surgery. Others continue to bravely fight, and the caregivers do all we can to offer support even though often we are sidelined and nearly helpless bystanders.
If you develop the following symptoms or history, please check with your doctor as soon as possible, be proactive. It could be nothing, but it could be something. Most doctors will start you on a proton pump inhibitor if you’re having reflux, but make sure you follow up if it does not resolve within 3 months or gets worse at any time. They will also recommend diet and lifestyle changes. It may not even be your primary care that starts all of this. Some will refer you out to an otolaryngologist (ENT doctor) or a gastroenterologist (GI doctor). Sometimes you will see one or the other then be referred to the specialty you have not seen yet. It is always a process. Be your own advocate. My husband had no signs until about 3 months before being diagnosed. It was only difficulty swallowing that got progressively worse.
Esophageal cancer is not being as forcefully talked about as it should be. People are all too often self treating reflux even beyond the recommended time frame on the OTC packaging. Part of the reason many people who are diagnosed already have a more aggressive staging of this cancer is due to the self treatment. People do not know the risks and dangers of not seeking medical advice. Even more important is that if you feel something is wrong, and for whatever reason your care team does not seem to take you seriously, get another opinion. If multiple providers run tests and find nothing, then it may be nothing. I am not saying to work yourself up into a frenzy, but be aware of your own body. Husband’s cancer was found with an endoscopy and a biopsy.
Cancer will often be staged by an endoscopic ultrasound, other imaging, biopsies. In some instances, like my husband, for whatever reason they are unable to determine the stage prior to treatment. The stricture caused by his tumor would not allow an ultrasound. The PET scan gave the impression of being a Stage II or Stage III, but showed no metastasis. His team began his treatment because they did the same treatment for either stage, as long as he wasn’t Stage IV, they were confident. After his surgery, we were told he was T3N1MX. Stage III. It is the MX that will forever worry me. Just because metastasis could not be assessed, does not mean there was none. Positive, he has had one clean post op scan. So, until a scan shows otherwise, we consider him cancer free. He will be followed for years.
Some Cancer Facts
If you are a candidate for surgery, and there are a host of reasons why someone won’t be from staging to other health concerns, it is a very intense and involved procedure. My husband had roughly the top third of his stomach removed with the lower half to two-thirds of his esophagus removed. He then has the gastric pull through to attach the remainder of the two section. His stomach and esophagus (or “stomaphagus” as one survivor calls his) is roughly in the location as the above picture. He likes to tell people that he now has a stomach the size of a little girl and can no longer eat a lot. His surgery was done by the Ivor Lewis method completely laparoscopically. There are other methods to do the surgery and different options for attachment.
Every day is a new day with potentially a new challenge. We are hopeful that by one year post op he will be more used to what he can and cannot eat and the new quirks that his body throws at him after the surgery.
Please be Aware, Spread Awareness
Hoping next year allows better opportunity for me to help raise awareness. For this year, less than one year from husband’s diagnosis, my blog will have to do. Of course I will link to it from social media. If you have any questions that I may be able to answer, please feel free to reach out to be on Facebook or here. [ https://www.facebook.com/oneladywolf2/ ]
Credit for where I obtained pictures and some information:
http://www.ecaware.org/ | http://www.whatnext.com | https://www.cookmedical.com/endoscopy/what-is-esophageal-cancer/ | https://www.cookmedical.com/endoscopy/how-can-you-detect-esophageal-cancer/ | http://www.celebritydiagnosis.com/2011/01/harmon-killebrew-plans-to-outslug-esophageal-cancer/ | http://www.slideshare.net/khem02/esophageal-cancer-54377720 | http://www.trcc.org
My blog posts of my husband’s (and my) journey against this beast so far if you want to read but do not want to browse my whole blog to do so:
http://oneladywolf.com/2015/10/the-big-c/ | http://oneladywolf.com/2015/10/caregiver-stress/ | http://oneladywolf.com/2015/10/countdown-paranoia/ | http://oneladywolf.com/2015/10/countdown-day-10/ | http://oneladywolf.com/2015/11/just-2-days/ | http://oneladywolf.com/2015/11/surgery-and-recovery/ | http://oneladywolf.com/2015/11/great-progress/ | http://oneladywolf.com/2015/12/december-2015/ | http://oneladywolf.com/2015/12/awareness/ | http://oneladywolf.com/2016/01/ec-fight-update/ | http://oneladywolf.com/2016/01/not-terrible-days/ | http://oneladywolf.com/2016/02/trials-to-overcome/ | http://oneladywolf.com/2016/03/wonderful-news/ | http://oneladywolf.com/2016/04/five-months/ | http://oneladywolf.com/2016/04/new-daily-struggle/