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Jeff's Healing Journey
10/5/2016 Latest post:
Hello Family and Friends!
Thank you for caring about Jeff and our family and supporting us through this challenging time. We so appreciate all of your prayers and positive thoughts -- keep 'em coming! We are very blessed to be where we are, have all of you supporting us and to have all of the Mayo's best doctors guiding Jeff through his healing. Through this site, I will keep you updated on Jeff's status and progress. But as a way of background, I thought I would share Jeff's story.
Jeff was diagnosed with stage 3 esophageal/gastric cancer late June 2016. Ironically, one night while going to bed, he felt a very slight chest pain below his sternum. Normally, nothing to worry about, but the very next day while eating breakfast, his food felt like it was getting stuck in his esophagus. He also experienced pain when feeling stressed or upset. He knew something was wrong, so he emailed his doctor at the Mayo in Rochester, Minnesota who advised him to get an upper GI as soon as possible. Fortunately, the head of gastroenterology at UT Southwestern, Dr. Mack Mitchell, was able to get him in the very next day and discovered that Jeff had a tumor at the top of his stomach along with an ulcer. We suspect it was actually the ulcer that was causing the pain and discomfort, so thankfully we were able to discover it when we did.
Two days later, we flew to the Mayo where they had all of his doctor appointments lined up for the week. After we arrived, we learned that a 30-person immunotherapy clinical trial for his specific cancer had miraculously just opened the day before we arrived. I had heard of the success oncologists were seeing with immunotherapy and knew Jeff had to get into that trial. After getting an EGD exam, we learned it was stage 3, which thankfully meant that it was still localized and had not spread to other parts of the body. If the cancer had metastasized, he would not have qualified for the trial. Fortunately, Jeff passed all of the required tests with flying colors and was the first patient admitted into the trial. :) We just learned that only one other person has qualified for the trial, so it's not an easy trial to get into.
In order for Jeff to be part of the immunotherapy trial, we decided to do all of his treatment up at the Mayo. The three of us spent July and most of August at the Mayo-owned Charter House, which was a couple of blocks from where Jeff underwent his outpatient treatment. While undergoing his chemo and radiation treatment, he received three doses of the immunotherapy drug, Pembro, spaced three weeks apart. After his treatment, we went back to Dallas where Jeff spent five weeks regaining his strength and preparing his body for surgery. Jeff had already lost weight before he was diagnosed and continued losing during his treatment. When we left the Mayo late August, he had lost 25 pounds. Thank goodness he got his appetite back mid-September and began eating well without pain. It's hard for the body to gain weight while fighting cancer, but at least he's been able to maintain, which is good.
We are now back at the Mayo for his surgery, which is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 5 at St. Mary's Hospital. If all goes well, we will fly back to Dallas Sunday, Oct. 16. The doctors say that six weeks after surgery he will be able to eat most of what he wants, but in smaller portions. Jeff will continue getting the immunotherapy drug after surgery -- six doses spaced three weeks apart. He will get his first dose six weeks after surgery when he comes back to the Mayo for his post-surgery checkup.
Needless to say, learning Jeff had cancer hit us both really hard, but my belief in him and in God's plan keeps me feeling extremely positive knowing he will get through this. We have since learned of many others whose cancer was much more progressed and were given a much lower chance of survival who are still cancer free and living a full life. Hearing that they not only survived, but are thriving years later gives us tremendous hope and expectation that Jeff will do the same.
I also want to let you all know how touched Jeff has been by your uplifting texts and emails and by the time many of you have taken to spend time with him before his surgery. All of your love and support has strengthened him and helped him stayed positive. We can't thank you enough.