Esophageal cancer - Stage III
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
I began 2001 going about my usual active lifestyle in Norman, Oklahoma. I was a "young" 52 years of age. I worked long hours at Tinker Air Force Base in an Industrial Engineering position as a planner, volunteered and taught in the elementary ministry area of Norman's Trinity Baptist Church, fished, rode my motorcycle and played competitive sports.
In early 2001, I was the only "old man" on a 4x4 basketball team of twentysomethings. My team, Glenn's Gunners, was the league champ, with a 20–0 record. However, I didn't feel totally well. I had chronic acid reflux, but a checkup showed I had perfect blood pressure and low cholesterol. My lab results were excellent.
Medication eliminated my acid reflux, and I felt better until one day when some popcorn got stuck in my lower esophagus and caused me great pain. My family physician ordered further tests, which led to an endoscopy and a stunning diagnosis—a stage III adenocarcinoma mass measuring over 7 centimeters by 3 centimeters in my lower esophagus, extending into my stomach with several enlarged lymph nodes.
It was determined that surgery was not an option and I was advised to find a clinical trial (experimental medicine). My wife of 28 years, Ann, immediately started to search for the "best" place for treatment.
Just as we were heading to one of the country's premier cancer hospitals, the staff there halted my admission until further tests could be done. However, the first gastroenterologist who diagnosed me, as well as experts at a leading medical center, deemed these tests unnecessary. They even said the tests could lead to potential complications that could delay or compromise my treatment. In fact, we were told any delay in starting treatment could be fatal.
We had never heard of Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) until Ann saw one of its television ads. She searched the Internet for more information about CTCA, and after intense prayer and a miraculous sequence of events (that’s another story), it was very clear I was supposed to get treatment at CTCA.
After we spoke with the Oncology Information Specialists at CTCA, they immediately began my admission process and scheduled appointments for me to meet with the appropriate doctors at CTCA at Southwestern Regional Medical Center the following week.
From May through August 2001, we stayed in the CTCA guest hotel so that I could have round-the-clock medical care. CTCA doctors used state-of-the-art treatment and were very positive and compassionate. They also treated the "whole person" through nutrition and naturopathic counsel, and provided emotional and spiritual support. The entire staff—from top to bottom—was kind and caring. Our impression was that their employment seemed to be more of a "calling" than a job.
We also had a prayer support team of thousands around the world that Ann kept updated almost daily through an e-mail report called "Chuck G.'s 23rd Psalm Walk." I could not have gotten through the cancer experience without my faith in God.
My treatment consisted of three sessions of photodynamic therapy (PDT), a new treatment, at the time, for esophageal cancer. The PDT was performed by Dr. Ross Taylor, whom Ann and I came to love dearly. My PDT treatment was followed by six weeks of radiation and six months of an effective chemotherapy designed by Dr. Fred Brunk (an absolute genius).
Due to the site of my cancer, I was unable to eat as I normally would, so I had PEG tube feedings for a while. Honestly, the treatment took its toll. I don't remember much about that summer; I spent most of it in bed and lost 47 pounds from an already, relatively lean body. Thankfully, Ann kept a journal detailing my walk through this difficult time.
It was a difficult time in my life. I simply trusted God, without any questions about "why." Psalm 23 became my lifeline. Proverbs 3:5–6 became Ann's lifeline.
By early October 2001, I was cancer free. I have remained cancer free ever since. I finished my last chemotherapy treatment the last week of November ‘01. I returned to work part time in August of that year, with Ann driving me there and back. By January 2002, I was back to work full time and driving myself. That summer I was also back playing softball, even in an “all-night” tournament.
My recovery defies all statistics. But I agree with Dr. Taylor, "statistics mean nothing to believers." I eat a normal diet, have regained all the weight I lost and have gone from being unable to swallow water without great pain to eating steak without any problems! I still ride my motorcycle and fish, and have developed a love for snowmobiling. I recently retired from Tinker AFB and work part time for my neighbor's mechanical contracting company. Life is good.
I can't say enough about the doctors and nurses who cared for me at CTCA. I look forward to my checkup scopes with Dr. Taylor. A couple times a year my esophagus has to be dilated (stretched) due to scarring from the aggressive treatment I received. But I consider it a minor inconvenience for a couple of days. That aggressive treatment saved my life.
Dr. Flynn and his staff administered my radiation so precisely that I have had no collateral damage to any of the tissues surrounding my cancer. I also had great confidence in Dr. Brunk because of his studious, unhurried, contemplative, kind demeanor. Equally important, the pain management staff did everything possible to relieve my pain and never quit until they found an effective medication for my extreme nausea. And Mickey and Wanda in the Outpatient Accommodations Department were very kind and accommodating.
A cancer diagnosis, even one as dire as mine, does not automatically mean life is over. There were many times I could have given up. But if I had, I would not have been able to be best man at my son's wedding in 2003; I would have missed years with my wife; and I would have missed the blessing of having my first grandchild, Brooklyn McKenzie, who was born on my birthday in 2006! And, I would not be able to encourage others in their cancer battle, including veterans of the Vietnam War like myself. I have so much admiration and respect for them.
Make no mistake about it—it is a battle. No one should fight it alone and it must be fought with doctors who are fully committed to winning the war. CTCA may not be for you; but it is worth your consideration. It certainly was the right place for me.
May 29, 2012
I am doing very well. After nearly 11 years since I completed treatment, cancer is no longer a fear. We take every opportunity we can to encourage other cancer patients. We are grateful for the blessings we have received.
I enjoy an active life and normal diet. Having come through the "valley of the shadow of death" during cancer treatment, I am amazed that my greatest health issues years later are hearing loss and total knee replacement. But you won't hear any complaints from me!
I am fully retired and enjoy the time I get to spend with Ann and my family. I am blessed to have three grandchildren, Brooklyn, Kayley and Joey. Since they live a block away from us, we're very involved in their lives. I still enjoy snowmobiling, four-wheeling and fishing in Colorado several times a year. And I am an avid Oklahoma Sooners fan. I remain active in my church, Trinity Baptist, as a member of the safety/security team, greeter and in children's church.
I'm grateful that the Lord gave me these past years. I'm living proof that only God knows the number of "all the days ordained for me" (Psalm 139:16). I thank God for each day He gives me.