Brad remembers the exact day he received his esophageal cancer diagnosis: February 26, 2015.
“I wasn’t feeling sick at all,” said Brad. “I had just been having a little difficulty swallowing, so I called my gastroenterologist for a colonoscopy and an endoscopy. We even joked when he told me, ‘it’s about the whole digestive tract — from both ends and everything in between!’”
Brad never entertained the thought of cancer. “I was convinced it was nothing -- just a little something blocking my throat.”
A phone call from his doctor revealed the blockage was a malignant tumor in Brad’s esophagus. He was so shocked he handed the phone to his wife, Gill.
“From then on, we caught up on all things cancer. We did research, we talked to doctors, we got a second opinion and we spoke with a holistic practitioner. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.”
Within two weeks, additional testing showed the cancer was in stage IIB and Thomas LeVoyer, MD, surgical oncologist with North Texas Surgical Oncology Associates and Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Medical City Plano, had worked up a treatment plan to start immediately that included chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
Brad called a time out. “It was all happening too fast,” said Brad. “I felt like I was facing death for the first time and needed to get my affairs in order.”
To make matters worse, a good friend of Brad’s, a man five years younger, received a pancreatic cancer diagnosis around the same time. Brad watched as his friend deteriorated and saw how the cancer devastated his friend’s family. “During those same few months that I was treated and cured, my friend died.”
When Brad and Gill got their second opinion on his esophageal tumor and when the holistic practitioner agreed with Dr. LeVoyer’s first treatment plan, Brad was unsure how to proceed.
As if it were perfect timing, Jeffrey Greenberg, MD, a radiation oncologist with Texas Oncology and Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Medical City Plano, stepped in. “Dr. Greenberg showed me the PET scan and told me we could cure my cancer. When I saw how small the tumor was and that it hadn’t spread, I really began to believe that my cancer could be defeated.”
Brad moved forward with his treatment plan and did not have any bad side effects from the six rounds of chemotherapy treatments or five weeks of radiation. He ended up losing a little bit of hair, which has since grown back. Gill even says Brad’s hair is darker now and he has less gray hair! Five months after diagnosis, Brad had surgery to remove his tumor, which went exceptionally well. Brad is incredibly appreciative of Dr. LeVoyer’s assurance along the way.
Brad speaks with familiarity about every member of his care team. As Brad describes them, Dr. LeVoyer,
was the take-charge surgeon, who was nearly too confident in defeating Brad’s cancer. Dr. Greenberg, patiently explained his diagnosis and reassured Brad that they could treat his cancer.
Thuy Le, MD, medical oncologist with Texas Oncology and Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Medical City Plano, and David Smith, MD, surgical oncologist with North Texas Surgical Oncology Associates and Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Medical City Plano, provided additional medical expertise and
insights on how to deal with the tsunami-like event that was happening to him. Gwen, Brad’s Sarah Cannon nurse navigator, was an extra special light in his treatment, as he calls her “wonderfully sweet and caring.”
“After getting the second opinion, I realized that a confident and optimistic team is exactly what you want when facing such a daunting medical challenge. I realized that it was just my own fear and self-doubt that was so overwhelming to me all along.”
After 12 days of post-op at with nurse navigator Gwen at the helm and Gill providing constant backup, Brad was discharged from the hospital and spent six weeks at home recuperating.
A follow-up scan revealed he is now cancer-free and he will receive periodic scans for the next five years to make sure nothing returns.
“I feel like nothing ever happened, except I lost 20 pounds and have kept it off.”