Where am I now?

As you can see, this blog hasn't gotten any love in many years... But you can now find me on my site jessicatravels.com.

04 April 2006

It's Not a Whisper Anymore

I remember, as a child, the word "cancer" being something that people only spoke of in hushed and fearful tones, as if the word itself were somehow contagious. We've come a long way since then, and if my four years at the American Cancer Society taught me anything, it's that a cancer diagnosis isn't necessarily the end of the road. Having said that, it's still nothing to sneeze at. So when my father came over to see me on Saturday and announed that he has a four-inch cancerous tumor in his lower esophagus, I was mostly just stunned.

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.

9 comments:

Michael said...

THANKS!!!

M said...

Definitely sending positive peaceful happy vibes to you all. Smile, laugh and keep doing the things that bring you joy. Like Jess said, this is why there's family, however 'family' is defined.

vj said...

Jess, and Michael -
Yikes. I hate to hear things like this. I'm keeping you in my thoughts.

Stephanie said...

I will keep you in my thoughts - good luck! and I hope you have a doctor that you trust - it makes all the difference it navigating the medical insanity and making good decisions.

vfscotti said...

Cancer support sights and group sessions at places like St Vincents can be a huge source of support and information. You and your family are in my thoughts. Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

Your listening ear and warm heart are what your dad needs. And taking care of this is his job now - with the family's help and interest. Thinking of him and remembering him in daily tasks.

Mary said...

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Anonymous said...

My thoughts are with your Dad, and you. I hope all goes well with the surgery, and he continues to reach out to family, friends, and the community. I am sorry to hear the news. Take care. Heather.

Marci said...

Not only are my thoughts with your dad, but to you as well. If you need anyone to vent to, don't hesitate to e-mail, now that we've found each other again, I'd like to be of help.