Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Charles Metzler

Esophageal cancer - Stage II

This testimonial includes a description of this patient’s actual medical results. Those results may not be typical or expected for the particular disease type described in this testimonial. You should not expect to experience these results.

View CTCA treatment results for esophageal cancer

My story

Looking back today, I can see that I’d been having symptoms for a while, though I didn’t pay any attention to them. Often when I ate, I would have trouble getting my food down after swallowing. But I found that drinking something warm would ease its passage, so I never had it checked out.

Then, on New Year’s Day, 2008, I went to use the bathroom and passed out on the floor. An ambulance took me to the hospital.

I hadn’t had a bowel movement while at the hospital, and when I got home and had one, with difficulty, the stool was black. My wife called a nurse, who told us to immediately go to the hospital. After a day and a half of tests, including the upper and lower gastrointestinal tracts, my wife and I went home for the weekend. When we returned on Monday for the test results, the doctor told me that I had esophageal cancer that had spread to one of my lymph nodes.

A ray of hope

Back home, in South Alabama, I talked to my brother, who happened to be a hospice chaplain. He gave me the number for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) and said, “Charles, I’ve never used this number, but I’d like you to call.” I took his advice. Within two weeks, we were heading out to the Midwestern Regional Medical Center, in Zion, Illinois, for a second opinion.

CTCA® made us feel comfortable. At the airport, there was a limousine waiting to pick us up and take us to the motel, and then to the hospital. In fact, when we needed to go somewhere, transportation was provided by CTCA. 

On that first visit, which lasted a little over a week, I met with my Care Team to discuss treatment. They were so caring and supportive. They offered me various options for treatment, and after making our decision, we returned home and packed our bags for a longer stay. We returned to the center for five weeks, and I received radiation treatments as well as oral chemotherapy, twice a day.

The people at CTCA were so warm, and made us feel so safe and at peace, it truly became our home. There is simply a wonderful atmosphere of togetherness there. During five weeks of radiation treatments at Midwestern, I also took took a chemotherapy drug, Xeloda—three pills in the morning and three at bedtime. After the radiation treatments were finished, I came home and continued to take the Xeloda pills for two more weeks, and waited for the radiation I had undergone to continue shrinking the tumor in my esophagus.

I took vitamin supplements, and followed my Care Team’s suggestions for keeping my white blood cell count up, since the treatments left me very tired. After a few weeks at home, it was time to return to CTCA for surgery. We met with our surgeon, Dr. Staren, who told us about the operation I was about to have. He warned us that he might need to remove part, or all, of the esophagus.

As it turned out, the entire esophagus had to be removed, but I was in trusted hands. He brought part of my stomach upwards, and sewed the top of it to my throat, making a narrow passage for food to go through. In the beginning, as I was healing, food would get caught in that narrow passage, and I would go to CTCA to have my throat dilated numerous times. They kept telling me that one day, it would stay open for good. They were right. 

Dr. Staren and Dr. Thompson, my oncologist, were simply wonderful. I have grown very fond of Dr. Thompson. She encouraged me, and told me I was going to make it through—and I have.

The light at the end of the tunnel

I’m doing excellent today. In 2011, I was diagnosed with heart trouble, and underwent four bypasses. Today, I have energy, and I can eat almost anything I want.

I believe that I am still here today because of my trust in God, my supportive family and friends, plus the care provided by CTCA and my wonderful surgeon. I believe God provided me strength and there is more for me to do. I am thankful for the healing and strength that is allowing me to continue living.

My wife, Bertha, was with me every step of the way, and when I returned from a test or a treatment, she was there with a smile, saying, “There, you’ve reached another milestone!” She kept a daily journal of the experience, along with a blog. When I look at that journal today, I get goose bumps, thinking of all I went through and how wonderful I feel now.

Around three years ago, Dr. Thompson transferred from Midwestern Regional Medical Center to Southeastern Regional Medical Center near Atlanta. I said, “Dr. Thompson that’s within a four-hour drive to my house. Can I transfer with you?” She advised me to make an official request, and CTCA confirmed it. Today, I go to the Atlanta area for my follow-ups, with the same oncologist who helped save my life.

CTCA is a wonderful place if you are dealing with cancer. They take care of your needs with an underlying concern and love. They give us hope, and show us the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a place that cares about you as a person, meeting the needs you have, and you start to care about the people there, as much as they care about you. A benefit of my cancer journey is being able to be part of a Cancer Fighters Team for CTCA.

I’m thankful for each of my 69 years. I work part-time, and take care of our immense garden, where we grow our own food. My wife and I will soon celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. With four children, three daughters and one son, and 14 grandchildren, I feel truly, truly blessed.