I first came to MD Anderson in August 2016. My physician, Dr. David Rice, carefully explained, in layman's terms, how he would remove the cancerous tissue in my esophagus and then pull up my stomach and attach it, along with part of my esophagus, to the other section. He told me about the risks and possible complications that could arise. Most important, he told me about the following blood work and CT scans, and that he would bring my case before a group of esophageal doctors. Once he had all the information, he would devise optimal cancer treatment plans.
This approach gave me a great deal of confidence that I could, and would, be cured of cancer and that I could begin to plan for my retirement years.
A few weeks later, I received a call. The group had come to the consensus that my cancer could be eliminated by either surgery or endoscopic treatments. I chose the latter and Dr. Rice's team readily turned me over to another team. I realized that patients are truly the biggest concern for doctors at MD Anderson.
Unfortunately, the endoscopic treatment did not eradicate my cancer. I was again turned over to Dr. Rice. He spent days following the first operation trying to understand what might have caused my inability to swallow. Again, he told me that he planned to consult with colleagues before making a final decision. I cannot emphasize enough how his attitude impressed me and gave me confidence that I was receiving world-class treatment.
These discussions led to a second operation that determined that Dr. Rice had figured correctly - my stomach had somehow twisted, cutting off the blood supply and causing it to die along with a length of my lower esophagus. Dr. Rice removed my stomach and most of my esophagus, and rerouted the remaining esophagus. A third operation in May reconstructed my digestive system. This 14-hour surgery required Dr. Rice and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Matthew Hanasono to connect the small intestine to the remaining esophagus and build a blood supply to keep the system and me alive for years to come.
Dr. Rice and his team personify what it means to be a hero whose actions, when surgeries do not go as planned, do not instill panic but rather lead to careful reflection and acquisition of more information that ultimately leads to actions that save patients' lives. It is precisely this scenario that I have experienced firsthand and that saved my life.
Promise invites cancer survivors to share their reflections. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.