Friday, October 17, 2008


It's time I got back to writing. It's been two very long and painful weeks, but now I must continue with life as it's been handed to us, and that means I need to get back to writing.

Two weeks ago today, Tom was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

It's a very difficult cancer to battle. It usually doesn't show symptoms until it's in advanced stages. The treatment is brutal - or as our new oncologist says, "I'm going to really beat you up before treatment is finished."

It starts with daily radiation for at least six weeks, combined with chemo every other week. The program is designed to shrink his tumor as much as possible before surgery, which will remove the lower end of his esophagus and then reconnect the remaining esophagus to his stomach. It means chemo ports and stomach feeding tubes, since the radiation to the esophagus will cause extreme pain when Tom tries to swallow.

We have a good oncologist, one we like very much. He doesn't sugar-coat anything, and told us the truth - the prognosis isn't very good. But he also is strong on pointing out the good stuff - that Tom actually looks healthy, isn't a smoker or drinker (both major causes of this cancer), and has a very positive attitude. His blood tests this week were all very strong. Those are all in his favor - and Tom's not a quitter.

He's ready to fight.

Spending hours and hours on researching this uncommon cancer, I came across a trial study that is being held at U of Michigan hospital, about 1-1/2 hours from here. It's being directed by a nationally-known doctor who specializes in this cancer, and is testing a drug now currently being used successfully in the treatment of advanced colon cancer. Since colon cancer is similar in many ways to e-cancer, there's a strong belief that this could prove to be a significant drug. I gave a copy of the trial to our oncologist, and he almost fell out of his chair in glee!

Turns out he'd done his homework before meeting with us, and had already lined up some local trials for us to consider. He said that usually he has to talk people into trials, as many do not want to be a guinea pig. And here we were, shoving this piece of paper into his hands, asking - begging - to be considered for that trial. He hadn't been aware of this particular trial, and feels that it would be very good for Tom, so he's sent a referral asking for Tom to be admitted. Now we're just waiting to hear from the trial study . . . waiting is hard.

Tom's now lost 70 pounds since May. Since he was overweight, originally he could afford to lose weight. Now we're battling to keep his weight stable so he can get through treatment. He cannot eat much solid food, but can tolerate soups, scrambled eggs, fruit smoothies and similar soft foods. We should own stock in Ensure, because it's the bulk of his current diet.

Over the last couple weeks, the valleys have overtaken the hills, and it's been tough, but we're getting used to it. At least now we have some direction, when before we just knew it was bad but didn't know what could be done. It's the unknown that really screws your head.

We are both the patient - although Tom's getting the worst of the deal, I'm right here beside him every step of the way. We have a long and hard fight ahead, and we're ready for it. Well, we're as ready as we can try to be . . . and we are trying really, really hard.


Henrik Lehnerer said...

Beth, our prayer are with you two.

Sharon Allen said...

Hi Beth,

John & I are praying for you, Tom and your family.

We owe you so much. If there's any little thing we can do to make things easier for you, please do not hesitate to ask!!

Sharon & John

judyernie@cox.ent said...

Beth and Tom, you will certainly be in our prayers and thoughts. Do hope you can become part of the trial ---
Remember, there are a lot of friends out there who are beside you all the way.
Love you both,
Judy and Ernie Grant

Jonara Blu Maui said...

I'm so sorry to hear this heart goes out to you and your husband and I will be thinking of you as you work your way through trying to get him healthy again.

We too have been battling health issues here in our family..with our son..and it does numb you for a while. You can't function and it feels you will never be able to. But as time goes on you will find that getting back into your routine as much as you can can be theraputic.

I wish the best for both of's hard to be a caretaker..I keep getting told to find time for myself..and I had not been doing this until I took a couple much needed hours last Sunday..I'm starting to see the importance of it so that you can still be available to take care of your loved one. So I'll tell you the same..please don't forget to take care of yourself!

Alice said...


Warm thoughts going your way, every day.


Ann said...

Dear Beth and Tom - You are in my thoughts and prayers, and it's so good that your doctor is open to the trial you told him about. hugs, hugs, and more hugs - Ann

barbara rochelle said...

hi beth...your situation is throws her stuff at us and we become better because of it..keep those positive thoughts and actions! you and tom are not peple to lie down and let it happen !! you are in my prayers every day. barb rochelle

p2pix said...

My sincere thoughts of hope and wellness are with you and Tom during this challenging time in your lives.

Anonymous said...

Our thoughts and prayers are with your family Beth and best wishes. Thanks so much for your help in Wiscasset this Summer Beth and we look forward to seeing you again. Dennis and Natalie Louwers.