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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving for me: Two years ago, I was not sure this day would arrive

It's amazing how the future looks.

Two years ago I was not certain my future would include today, Thanksgiving 2009, or my birthday a couple of days later.

In my mind, the future looks like today.

Two years ago, I'd just been removed from my 24/7 chemo pump and was preparing -- as I am now -- for tests on Dec. 7. I was thankful then for my doctors, my family, my friends and for life.

Still, I remember telling my cousin David Spitz, the popular Connecticut chiropractor, that I feared I would not make it to age 50. I was panicked, often tearful. But 50 became a goal. At the time, it seemed distant, remote, unattainable.

Today, it's a bit closer -- just a few days away.

So on this Thanksgiving, I feel truly blessed with that family, those friends, my wonderful doctors, their wonderful staffs, and the knowledge that I've reached another milestone, another goal on the road to recovery from esophageal cancer.

And as a way of paying it forward, I'll reiterate as I have probably too often in this blog: If you get heartburn, if you have acid reflux or even if you take a few Tums or Rolaids every day, you could get cancer. See a doctor, have an endoscopy, consult your family doctor or gastroenterologist.

Heartburn and acid reflux could lead to Barrett's Esophagus, a precursor to esophageal cancer. There are treatments at that stage to help avoid cancer. But doing nothing is not one of them.

Be thankful for what you have today, as I am, and celebrate with your loved ones. Be kind to those loved ones and take care of yourself.

Oh, another tip here -- moderate amounts of turkey, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob and pumpkin pie are not known causes of Barrett's Esophagus or esophageal cancer. So eat up and celebrate, with your loved ones of course!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Did I ever tell you about ...

Not sure if I ever mentioned in detail my experience with these faux heart attacks I've been having lately.

They're not heart attacks, but sure feel like them -- or so I've been told. I become sweaty and exhausted, chest is compressed and my chest and left arm are in extreme pain. Not quite as bad as after my surgery but damned close.

The heart and the stomach/esophagus are fed by the same network of arteries, so what affects one of these smooth-muscle tissues feeds the other. Since they're faux heart attacks and possibly be caused by something I eat, I tend to call them fart attacks. Gotta laugh at something, right?

They began toward the end of last year, when I really thought I was having a heart attack. It's what sent me to Florida Heart Group and Dr. James Miner. But after cardiac catheterization and other tests, I was cleared -- no heart attack.

Dr. Miner suggested my problems might be related to my cancer surgery. Dr. Philip Styne, the gastroenterologist in Orlando, didn't disagree. He said the attacks might be caused by esophageal spasms.

So the docs prescribed a couple of drugs in case another faux heart attack hits. They seem to hit almost nightly now, some more severe than others.

Some I believe are caused by my schedule -- and the fact that I tend to snack at night when I get off work. Others I just can't explain. They hit at night, during the day, once or twice at work.

Thankfully I have the meds and they really work. One, called Nulev, dissolves under my tongue and is supposed to help with such spasms. It works off and on. The nitro-based drug seems more consistent and reliable. Between the two I've avoided most of the really bad attacks. Those occur about once a week and I just can't manage them.

I tend to think these attacks may be caused by one of the two elements that have stymied my docs since August, when I had CT and PET scans with inconclusive results. The CT scan detected what might be a cyst in my chest. I think it is this cyst that is pressing on an artery that feeds both my heart and esophagus/stomach, especially after I eat, when the stomach -- kind of in my chest because of the surgery -- is bloated.

I've been scheduled for another round of CT and PET scans in early December. Perhaps then the docs will get a handle on what is causing the fart attacks.