Monday, January 3, 2011
I recently posted about my Dad being diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. Unfortunately, esophageal cancer often doesn't present symptoms in the early stages of the disease. The symptoms are not obvious, at all. For example, some of the symptoms are indigestion, heartburn, acid indigestion (caused by chronic acid reflux), hoarseness, chronic cough, and hiccups. The most common symptom is difficulty swallowing. However, the latter of these symptoms doesn't appear until the more advanced stages. Just to give you an idea, my Dad still hasn't had any difficulty swallowing and he is at Stage IVA. His cancer was found when he went to the doctor due to a swollen lymph node in his neck. He thought that it was related to an illness that he couldn't kick. At this point, he was already at a Stage IVA. Esophageal cancer is considered to be a stage IVA when the cancer has spread to nearby or distant lymph nodes. A pet scan revealed that Dad has a tumor in a lymph node in his neck, a tumor in a lymph node in his armpit, a tumor just below his diaphragm where 2 lymph nodes come together, and then the primary source - his esophagus and upper stomach. Mom originally said the tumor in his esophagus is 5 in. It is actually 5 cm.
Today, I attended my Dad's appointment with his Oncologist. I don't know much about cancer and I wanted to understand what we were up against. Esophagus cancer found at a Stage IVA doesn't have very good survival odds. My Dad's cancer is at the base of the esophagus and the top of the stomach. Removing the cancer at this point is not recommended. The surgery is horrible and the risks are very great. This is something they would attempt at a Stage I, II, and maybe III. If there was nothing else they could do, they may attempt it at Stage IV, but the risks are overwhelming and don't carry very good odds. The plan of attack for my Dad will be to start Chemo right away. He goes in first thing Wednesday morning to get a Port-a-cath. Then, later that afternoon, he will have his first round of Chemo. He will repeat the Chemo once every 3 weeks. They will do another pet scan after 2 rounds to see if the tumors are shrinking. If they shrink, then this is good. They will continue the Chemo once every 3 weeks until the tumors are no longer noticeable on the pet scan. If the Chemo doesn't shrink the tumors, they will try a more aggressive Chemo. This will also take place once every 3 weeks, and will be tested to see if the tumors shrink. If this doesn't work, then they will try radiation. At this point, his cancer is not curable. It's "treatable" with the possibility of putting the cancer into remission. It is optimistic to say that there is a 10-20% chance of putting the cancer into remission. These odds are no different then bringing Kinnick and Carver home alive from the hospital after being born at 23.4 weeks gestation. I come from a family of very strong men and women. We are all fighters. My Dad is ready to kick this cancer's butt! Please pray with me that he has the strength to remain positive and the courage to fight this terrible disease. Please pray that the cancer doesn't make him really ill and that his quality of life doesn't have to suffer. Please pray that the Doctors have the knowledge and skills to address the cancer head on without missing a beat. Please pray that my Dad is able to beat these odds.
My heart is so heavy. My Dad is such a strong man and doesn't ever show his emotions. He's such a private person. I know he is hurting and scared, and that really hurts me. I feel so helpless.