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Sunday, December 27, 2009


Dave was diagnosed with Stage IV Esophageal Cancer on December 14th. This is something that has obviously shocked us and has come on very quickly & unexpectedly. Unfortunately Esophageal Cancer is asymptomatic, meaning that there are no symptoms, until it's very advanced.

(FYI. Your esophagus is basically a large muscular tube that propels food from your throat to your stomach.)

About 6 weeks before the diagnosis he was feeling fine and actually just renewed his gym membership. Within about a week or so he wasn't feeling well, having difficulty swallowing and having intermittent chest pains. The first doctor he saw (4 weeks before the diagnosis) initially thought it was scar tissue at the bottom of his esophagus from past acid reflux/heartburn and would require surgery to be removed. He was scheduled for further tests including a barium swallow, then a catscan and finally saw a thoracic surgeon on December 14th. The surgeon reviewed the catscan, determined that he has advanced esophageal cancer that has also spread into the esophageal lymph nodes, and it looked like cancer in his liver as well. He said they wouldn't be operating and he would be referred to the Cancer Clinic for treatment. A further ultra-sound confirmed the cancer in his liver, and a biopsy was done on the tumor in his esophagus.

As an awareness opportunity, I'll share the cause of this cancer. The surgeon said this cancer is the result of chronic acid reflux/heartburn. Stomach acids back up into the esophagus causing constant irritation and eventually change the lining of the esophagus. This is called 'Barrett's Esophagus' which is a pre-cancerous condition. Not everybody that has Barrett's Esophagus goes on to develop cancer, but it greatly increases your risk of cancer. Dave apparently had Barrett's Esophagus, which went undiagnosed, despite the fact that he had gone to our family doctor many times for heartburn over the years. If you have chronic heartburn, you should talk to your doctor about being tested for Barrett's Esophagus.

Dave has taken the rest of the school year off. We're obviously overwhelmed at this point but are staying positive and are realizing that our new normal will be fighting cancer. Dave is keeping a positive attitude and has surrounded himself with family & friends. We're determined to beat this despite the poor odds. Dave is young and otherwise healthy. If anybody can do it, he can.


1 comment:

Jan Vna Esch said...

Hi Dave & Val,
I was so great that I got to see both of you yesterday. I have been thinking and praying for you both since I heard of the news. Please do not hesitiate to call and ask for help or advise. I mean it!! I am only one page away #10602. I must say I am glad to hear your experience at St. JOe's was a good one. Keep up the fight. As the Nike saying goes, Just Do it!! You can Dave & Val