Cancer doesn't run in my family. Plenty of other ailments do, just not cancer. So when he said "cancer," I thought, "How is that possible?" It turns out that the type of cancer he has is caused by years of damage from acid reflux, which would seem to be a pretty common thing these days. Perhaps it always was common, and we just didn't have a name for it (or the drug companies hadn't come up with the "miracle cure" to plaster all over our airwaves yet).
Whatever the case may be, it looks like he's now going to have to undergo a major operation (similar to open-heart surgery, they actually open the chest to get at this part of the lower esophagus - they remove the entire affected section of the esophagus, replacing it with intestine or a plastic tube). He's doing some testing right now - partly to see if the cancer is still localized and to confirm that it hasn't spread, and partly to see if he can handle the operation. At this point, there are more questions than answers (which is maddening), so we just have to wait for the tests to be completed - at which point I assume he'll get a surgery date.
My dad is a little freaked out (would anyone expect anything else?), and he's also handling it really well, taking care of himself and talking to his family about all of it. I'm encouraging him to continue to ask for help, as this isn't something that anyone should be expected to go through alone - that's why we have family, for chrissake...
So - anyone out there who has acid reflux problems, please don't just treat it at home with antacids for years and think you're going to be fine. Talk to your doctor. I'd never heard of cancer being caused by acid reflux, and yet when I started poking around online I found the following on the OncologyChannel:
"Barrett's esophagus is the primary risk factor for adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. In this condition, tissue damage in the lining of the esophagus occurs as a result of chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). About 10% of patients with GERD develop Barrett's esophagus and about 1% of these patients develop esophageal cancer."If you've got positive thoughts to spare for my dad, I'm sure he'd appreciate them.