I always think how crazy it is that in a second your life can change. That was the case in May. Lucas and I were at a CrossFit competition in Mankato when my phone rang. It was my mom and I couldn’t answer it as we were heading to compete, but I knew that there likely wasn’t a happy reason for that call as my mom knew we were competing and wouldn’t be calling to chat.
When I finally got to listen to the message she told me that my dad was in the ER as he had been extremely weak, short of breath, and his hemoglobin was 6. That meant he was bleeding from somewhere. They transfused him and started the hunt. We have a strong family history of colon cancer on that side so I was relieved when they ruled that out. What they found on the endoscopy wasn’t such great news. Mom told me they found 2 nodules on his esophagus and one was bleeding causing a slow leak which caused his hemoglobin to drop over time. He was losing more than he could make. They biopsied the nodules and we waited.
When the doctor called dad to discuss the results he informed him it “didn’t look good” and sent him for a chest CT. I asked Dad to call his doctor to get the actual biopsy report, but hearing “this doesn’t look good” usually means cancer. He was referred to Iowa City, but Dad wanted to go to Mayo and he had to wait a couple of weeks to get his appointment.
The biopsy showed that he has adenocarcinoma, which is one of 2 types of esophageal cancer. It’s becoming more prevalent and is more common in men. In Dad’s case it was caused by silent acid reflux.
This is why I had asked for prayers a few weeks back, but didn’t give more info at that time as we just didn’t know exactly what we were dealing with or what treatment would look like.
The first appointment at Mayo was a gastroenterologist that went over his cancer type and treatment options. He would need another CT of the chest and abdomen, a PET scan and an endoscopic ultrasound for staging. He was also referred to the thoracic surgeon and oncology/radiation.
The repeat endoscopy unfortunately showed that the cancer had gone into the muscle of the esophagus which would eliminate the surgical option of just scooping the cancer out. With this being the case if surgery was considered he would need a full removal of the esophagus and they would reattach his stomach up close to his throat.
The following week we went back to see the surgeon who discussed the surgical option, but noted that he would be a difficult surgical case due to other health conditions.
At this point there had been a lot of information given and there are a lot of doctors involved. I am thankful that we live close to Mayo that I can make the trek down there to go to the appointments. I cannot imagine navigating this information without someone with some healthcare knowledge to act as an advocate through all of this.
A little less than 2 weeks later we met with the Radiologist who will be doing the radiation and the medical oncology team. He will be doing a proton beam radiation Monday through Friday for 5-5.5 weeks. Chemo will be weekly to help weaken the cancer cells to make them more susceptible to the radiation. After that treatment he will have another PET scan to make sure the cancer hasn’t spread in-between the last one and after radiation and chemo.
Two days later we met with another Gastroenterologist to make sure his liver which has fatty deposits on it would be able to handle the treatments and they are going to do one more test to see how much “pliability” his liver has to determine if there is any cirrhosis.
We ended that day with dates to start radiation treatment and to go over the repeat endoscopy they did that morning to be able to know exactly where the 2 tumors are for radiation. They also took a biopsy of the lymph nodes that were enlarged and we are waiting for those results.
Cancer treatment carries a lot of unknowns in terms of how well it’s going to work. It is always strange walking the halls of Mayo Clinic as I have vivid memories of those halls when Elijah was a new baby and we were there for my mom’s breast cancer.