Beginnings

I feel called to share my story so that more people will become aware of the subtle symptoms of esophageal cancer. Also, I believe it’s a useful way to update my friends and relatives on the status of my condition. I’m sure I’ll reach a point where I don’t want to be receiving too many phone calls regarding my condition – it likely won’t be healthy to be talking about it constantly.

This story begins Thanksgiving weekend of 2016. Both of my children were home for the holidays – Brian, age 37, from Seattle, and Natalie, age 35, from Chicago. My wife Jennifer (of 42 years) made the traditional Thanksgiving dinner; our Trump-voting relatives were not invited. We were all shocked to the core by the election results, and at the prospect of having an immoral and incompetent person as President soon. Particularly my daughter, the stand-up comic, who had put herself on the line by actively promoting Hillary to a largely Trumpster audience.

I had trouble swallowing some of my dinner. That had never happened before.

I came down with a cold that lasted more than a month. I coughed a lot. My throat got irritated. The swallowing problem was only occasional; I had no pain. I did the only thing I could think of to Stop Trump: I entered an on-line petition on change.org, asking Republican Electors not to vote for Trump: Their Duty was to Country, not Party or State, in my opinion. I emailed my family and friends to sign it, but got very little support, even from family.

The coughing stopped, but then I got tons of post-nasal drip in my throat. I found myself clearing my throat almost continuously; it got more sore. I began to notice that the real problem was not with swallowing – it was than food was backing-up in my esophagus. I really noticed it with bananas: Even taking small bites and chewing thoroughly, after half a banana, I couldn’t eat any more, before the first half was still stuck in my esophagus! After a while, it went through, but something was clearly wrong.

Fortunately, I’d been playing tennis with a nationally-known gastroenterologist for more than 10 years: Dr. Alan Safdi. I asked him if I should see my doctor about it. His reply was that no, a family doctor would not be able to diagnose it. He said an EGD (EsophagoGastroduoDenoscopy) was the only way to diagnose it. He said there was very little chance of it being cancerous, but it was vital to find out for sure asap. I began to speculate that there is going to be an unprecedented wave of sickness due to Trump-induced stress.

I delayed a couple weeks hoping for relief, but then decided to go ahead and get it done. I got the EGD on February 2nd, and by late the next day got the diagnosis:  A well-differentiated adenocarcinoma (cancer!). Translation: At a minimum, major surgery would be required to remove the tumor. Next steps would be an ultrasound endoscopy to assess the tumor in more detail, and two CT scans (chest and pelvis) to see if the cancer has spread to my lungs and/or liver. Frankly, I took the news pretty well. Fortunately, I’d started back on antidepressants late in the year, and likely that helped.

Today I had the ultrasound endoscopy performed. The detailed diagnosis: The size and extent of the tumor was 3 (on a scale of 1 to 4, 4 being worst). Translation: Radiation and/or chemotherapy will be required prior to surgery. Had it been a 2, that would likely not have been required. Afterwards, I entered another on-line petition, asking Ivanka Trump to study climate change and then challenge her father with this question: “What if you are wrong about Climate Change?”

You can view my petition here. Please consider signing it, and asking your friends to do so as well. Petition status: 11 views, 5 signatures at the end of Day 1.

Tomorrow I get the CT scans. Hopefully, I’ll have results by sometime Friday. Tomorrow night I’m having dinner out to celebrate my wife’s 65th birthday. I turned 66 in December. Stay tuned for more episodes of “as the stomach turns”.

4 thoughts on “Beginnings

  1. Doug and Jen,
    Thinking of you both. Do hope that this all goes well. Come to TN to visit during your recovery, we have a small lake, and plenty of room…Really would love a restful visit. Love, Jean and John

    • Sorry for the late approval of this comment; it got sent to my old email address. I fixed that. Comments should appear right away now.
      Thanks for the kind words, and the invitation. We’ll try to find a time to take you up on that. I hear you are both doing better!

  2. Doug,
    Best wishes for a successful treatment. I hope you come through with minimal side effects. I’m glad you have a strong support system, positive attitude and serene acceptance of what must be. That sounds like a winning combination.

    Carol Cohn

    • Sorry for the late approval of this comment; it got sent to my old email address. I fixed that. Comments should appear right away now.
      Thanks for the encouragement; it was good to see you again Monday night.

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