Oct 30, 2018 Latest post:
Mar 24, 2019
Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement. Thank you for visiting.
As most of you know, Duane was diagnosed on October 1 of this year with esophageal cancer. To say this was a shock would be the understatement of the year. However, “we” are determined to hit this beast head on and do everything in “our” power to fight. Although we know the real fight on his behalf is being handled by Master Healer, we are going to great lengths to seek out the best possible course of treatment.
***Since his diagnosis, an interesting observation I’ve made is the number of people who have asked, “How did they find it? What were your symptoms?” So, to shed some light, and possibly help someone along the way, I’m going to share his story and timeline. Let me start off by saying that esophageal cancer (EC) does not present with any symptoms in the earliest stages. It’s not uncommon that by the time it causes problems enough to go to the doctor, it has progressed into at least stage II disease, sometimes III or IV. We are very blessed to have caught Duane’s at stage II. ***
In June of this year, Duane started complaining of rt abdominal pain. Naturally, I immediately said gallbladder and told him to go to the doctor. (We all know how well men follow that order.) Anyway, eventually he did go and the doctor said “ gallbladder” and sent him for an ultrasound to check for stones. The ultrasound showed nothing so he was then sent for a HIDA scan to check his function. Well, he failed that test with flying colors and it was determined that his gallbladder was functioning at about 12%. Naturally, the plan was to remove it. Meanwhile, this rt abdominal pain had grown to include the middle of his abdomen, right below the breastbone. Assuming it was all related, he moved forward with gb removal on July 30. He recovered from that with no issue but a couple of weeks later noticed that, even though the rt sided pain was gone, the middle abdomen pain was still there. Then he mentioned that he thought he may have irritated his esophagus because at dinner one night he swallowed too big of a bite without chewing it up good and got something “stuck.” He was having some pain when he ate but nothing debilitating. He ate soft foods and protein shakes for a week to see if it would give it a chance to “heal.” After a week, he didn’t seem to have much pain when eating but was having pain wake him up at night, all mid abdomen. This went on for a week or so. Then one Saturday he was hurting and didn’t feel good. He told me he was going to lay down and if he didn’t feel better when he got up, he needed to go to the ER. (THAT’S when I knew he was really in pain,because A) he doesn’t volunteer to go to the dr and B) he definitely doesn’t have the patience to sit an emergency room!) Natually,when he got up in half an hour, he felt better. He had these symptoms off and on all week and got up the following Saturday and made an appointment with his doctor for that morning.. She sent him for a CT scan that afternoon and called that Sunday with the results that there was a narrowing, possibly a stricture, and scheduled him for a barium swallow and GI study for Monday. These studies resulted in a recommendation for an endoscopy. At this point (late August) he’s having pain regularly. It hurts when he eats anything solid, it’s waking him up at night; a constant “pressure” in his upper abdomen. He saw the GI doctor early September, hoping to get the endoscopy done immediately as we were leaving for Europe for two weeks the next Tuesday. She explained that they couldn’t get him in that soon so they scheduled it for the week we got back. He had the endoscopy on Thursday. The doctor tells us there’s a mass and he biopsied it to rule out malignancy. What??!! In my mind I’m thinking, “no, he just has a stricture that needs to be dilated.” He told us to expect results on Monday or Tuesday. We got them on Monday, October 1. It was cancer. “How did we go from ‘I swallowed too big of a bite’ to ‘You have cancer?!’ That’s not possible! Cancer is my JOB , not my PERSONAL LIFE. “
Yet here we are.
Fast forward 17 days and we are sitting at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN with a solid, well though out plan of attack with the best of the best in cancer care. We leave on Friday for Rochester for 5 1/2 weeks for Duane to have concomitant (at the same time) proton therapy and chemo therapy. Once completed, we will come home for about 4 weeks to allow his body to recover. Then we will go back to Mayo for two weeks for him to have an esophagectomy. This will be done by one of the most experienced surgeons in the world for this procedure. This plan of treatment for his stage of disease gives him the greatest chance for many more cancer free years.
So, this is the greatest lesson of listen to your body and when you have something that doesn’t feel right, go to the doctor! The earlier you catch it, the better! While neither Duane nor I ever dreamed we would be facing this right now, we are well aware of how much worse it could’ve been and how blessed we are to have caught it when we did.