Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Surgery: Dad's Esophagus Removal

I remember the day of dad's surgery quite well. My wife stayed home and worked from there.  I didn't go up to the hospital right away but got a couple phone updates from mom who was there in the waiting room.  The doctors had kept her apprised of dad's condition and so far everything was going as planned.  My plan was to get up there by lunchtime and take mom to get something to eat then wait with her until we could see dad.  The surgery was an extremely invasive surgery that would remove two thirds of his esophagus but it would also prevent the cancer from returning to the esophagus.  It sounds extreme but with esophageal cancer there really aren't any good options.

I left home and drove to the hospital in just under an hour.  I found the waiting room and saw mom who very quickly got out of her seat and came over to me with an extremely worried look on her face and tears in her eyes. Something was very wrong.  In that moment I feared the worst, that there was a complication in surgery and dad's health was failing.  While my fear was completely wrong mom didn't have good news.

The doctor had gone in to surgery and checked the other organs one by one before beginning the esophagus removal.  It was then that he found more cancer.  And it was on dad's liver.  I'm not sure there is a worse place for cancer to be. The liver filters out the fluids of the body and its health is critical for our bodies to remain healthy.  The blood flows through the liver and cancer cells can float along and voyage to other areas of the body quite easily. Currently there is no treatment capable of destroying metastatic cancer of the liver, at least none that I know about and I've looked pretty extensively.  The problem is that once the cancer has metastasized (spread beyond its original location)  it could be in multiple locations. You could end up treating on location only to have cancer attack from another spot. The only treatment the doctor's recommended was a very high dose of chemo on the liver spaced out every two-three weeks.  It would maintain dad's health for a while but wouldn't cure him of the cancer.

Chemo was rough on dad the first time and he really didn't want to do through that process again. It was a hard choice, either go through the pain and exhaustion that the chemo brings or face the fact that cancer would soon end his life.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Diagnosis: Cancer

Back in November my dad was diagnosed with cancer. We heard the dread word for what it was and chose to willfully defy the death sentence we feared it could be. It's all you can do right? The diagnosis was esophageal cancer which is extremely aggressive in nature. The doctors seemed to think that there was a course of action would save dad's life and allow him to live an almost completely normal life.

Dad's Treatment for Esophageal Cancer


The recommended treatment was to surgically remove the effected section of the esophagus and rejoin the remaining section with the stomach. It's an extremely invasive procedure but when faced with a life or death situation dad chose to fight the cancer and accept the surgical option. The doctors referred him to previous patients who were willing to discuss their treatments and found a great deal of encouragement there. As a family we all spent considerable time searching the internet for cures and prognosis information (which I really don't recommend) and my brother found research that stated there was an improved chance of success with chemotherapy and surgery rather than the surgery by itself.  So chemo and radiation were added to the mix.

The treatment was extremely intimidating but what choice was there? Dad went though the first few weeks of chemo and radiation without too much trouble but the last two weeks were awful. Nausea and weakness were a constant battle. After radiation and chemo he needed time for his body to recover before the surgery. He felt weak and had trouble eating. Everything tasted different, even his favorite foods. It took him a couple extra weeks to recover but finally the doctor deemed him well enough to undergo the surgery.

In April dad went in for surgery to remove two thirds of his esophagus.

*This post is not a recommendation of any type of treatment. This is simply an accounting of my father's experiences with esophageal cancer and his subsequent treatments.