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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Andrew Slachta

Esophageal cancer - Stage IVA

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

When I was 55 years old, I began having trouble swallowing occasionally. Initially, I suspected that I may have a hiatal hernia because the pain I was experiencing was similar to the pain my father complained about when he had a hiatal hernia. But I didn’t doing anything about it because I was my mother’s primary caregiver and was focused on setting up a rigorous health procedure for her. Once her care was settled, I called my doctor.

After learning of my pain, my physician also suspected I had a hiatal hernia, or possibly esophageal narrowing. He wanted to know more before recommending treatment, so he referred me to a gastrointestinal specialist at a local clinic for an endoscopy.

After the endoscopy, the gastrointestinal specialist told me and my wife that there was a tumor at the bottom of my esophagus that appeared to be cancerous. He told me I should have blood tests and a CT scan. My blood was drawn that afternoon and I had a CT scan the following day.

On the day I learned of my tumor, my wife started researching treatment options. The diagnosis wasn’t confirmed yet, but she didn’t want to wait. We had seen commercials for Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) and she wanted to learn more about them.

Soon enough she was on the phone with CTCA discussing my situation with a representative. After that first conversation, I decided that if the cancer diagnosis was confirmed, we were going to CTCA for a second opinion. The next morning, as I was waiting for the results of my CT scan, I was on the phone with a CTCA representative, giving him all of the relevant information he needed so he could get me an appointment quickly if the test was positive.

My diagnosis was confirmed the next day: The tumor was cancerous. My doctor handed me a piece of paper with the name of a doctor to see for additional tests. On my way home, I faxed the results to CTCA. A few days later, I received a call from my representative to set up my appointments.

A few minutes later, I received a call back from my CTCA representative. The doctors had reviewed the scans I’d faxed over and wanted to know how soon I could get there. My original appointment was supposed to be in nine days but now it was less than a week, if I could be there. I said, “I can be there yesterday.”

Getting through treatment

After my three-day consultation at CTCA, Dr. Shayma Kazmi, my medical oncologist, said that the tumor was about 3 cm and the cancer was at stage IVA. Dr. Kazmi then told me she saw two options for my treatment. I told her I wanted the treatment she thought would be best. 

My first chemotherapy infusion was that day. The next day, I had a feeding tube inserted and was in the hospital for three days. The following week, I started radiation therapy and had a power port inserted for the rest of my intravenous chemotherapy.

The treatment was aggressive and difficult. I had chemotherapy every Monday, plus 25 sessions of radiation for five days a week in two locations on my esophagus. That was followed by three treatments of high-dose chemotherapy over six weeks.

Although I did not experience much nausea or vomiting, I did have dry heaving. It was very painful and led to minor internal tears and bleeding. I was at home when the bleeding occurred, so my care team at CTCA instructed me to go to the local emergency room. I recuperated and was able to continue without any breaks in treatment, but I hope I never have to experience anything like that again.

When I speak with others about CTCA, I often say that there will come a moment during the initial consultation when you will ask yourself, “Is this place for real?” Or you might think, “It sounds too good to be true!” In my experience, it is. CTCA never felt like a hospital to me. Walking down the hallway, feeling terrible, everyone would stop to say hello and ask how I’m doing. No one walks away in a rush—they leave politely. The staff at CTCA is compassionate, and the attention and support they give to caregivers is similar to what they give to patients.

Onward with life

For 18 months following my first treatment, my imaging tests at CTCA showed no visible signs of cancer. At a follow-up visit three months later, a scan showed something on my spine. I had a biopsy taken at the original tumor location and the results were benign. Four weeks later, another scan showed the same spot with no change. Six weeks later, the spot had not grown but there was increased activity. The lesion is located in a region that is dangerous to biopsy, so we proceeded straight to another course of treatment with five rounds of radiation.

The care and treatment I receive at CTCA, the support of my wife and my daughter, and my positive outlook on life will give me the strength to get through this next challenge. I will fight it just as I did during my first treatment.

Today, I feel better than before I was diagnosed. I am enjoying each day. I’ve always believed that even when life is hard, it is still great to be alive. That feeling has only strengthened since being diagnosed with cancer.