October, 2012. 320 pounds. Down 40 pounds. How can I have lost that much weight in 6 weeks without really trying? Why was I not really feeling too hungry most of the time anymore? What is that pain I’m getting in my ribs when I eat sometimes and when I swallow most of the time?
My wife Lea Ann and I had planned a trip back to Illinois to visit her father and our other family there for reasons other than funerals. We flew out and had a great visit. Saw a lot of family, and did a lot of visiting. I also drove over into Missouri to see some good friends that I had grown up with and to visit my father’s grave. All in all a very good visit, but I still was not eating much and getting less and less hungry. It was not something I could hide. My wife Lea Ann had been noticing the lack of eating, too. She had caught me on more than one occasion getting rid of food I did not want to eat and trying to hide the fact I was not eating. When she asked me about it I, again, tried to play it off as just not feeling well, or not hungry, or just full, or whatever else I could come up with.
November, 2012... Weight still coming off; appetite not coming back; rib pain getting a little worse; swallowing pretty much anything is hurting and feeling like the food is sticking. I talked with Lea Ann about it and she suggested that I go to the doctor. I tried to talk her out of it, but knew it really was a need. I just hate going to the doctor. In the middle of the month we went. I explained everything to the doctor in the visit. Well, everything I felt was relevant. Lea Ann filled in the holes I left. The doctor took in all this information and after the examination, came to this conclusion… Gall Bladder. So now I have to go in for some tests and see if that gall bladder needs to come out. They were going to schedule me with a general surgeon that specializes in endoscopy.
I was scheduled to have a consultation with this doctor before the procedure because this type of procedure was new to me. Near the end of the consultation he said, “You know… All this you have been telling me sounds familiar. I had many of these same symptoms and I was diagnosed with Valley Fever. Have you ever been checked for that?” I had heard of Valley Fever but had absolutely no idea what it was or what its symptoms were. I even wondered whether it was a real affliction or not. He said that there are a lot of misdiagnosed cases and even more go undiagnosed. A simple blood test will tell us, so I agreed. If that was what was wrong it was even better than a gall bladder issue because it meant no surgery.
The day of the esophageal endoscope the doctor comes in and explains the procedure, answers all of our questions then steps out again. I should mention that they had decided to do a colon scan at the same time as this esophageal endoscope because it was overdue. I have to get one every year to 18 months due to family cancer history. The test went without a hitch. When I woke up, Lea Ann was in the room with me. We were waiting for the doctor to come in and let us know what he found. Unknown to me at the time, Lea Ann had been taken into another room before I woke up and was told by the nurses how sorry they were and if there was anything they could do, etc… Not a good sign.
The doctor returned and started with the colon scan results. It was clean. They burned off a couple of pre-polyps and that was all. Then he handed Lea Ann a couple of pages of colored print outs of my esophagus. There was a large, very white mass in several of the pictures. He said it was at the bottom of the esophagus where it attaches to the stomach. They had taken several biopsies and also called in another surgeon to look at it. They were not sure what it was but it might be a simple yeast infection. That is what my doctor had said I had before when this first started. At that time he had put me on an anti-fungal and after a week or so, things got a lot better. We told the doctor that and he started me on more of the same… At least until the biopsy results came back. The second doctor was not so sure it was yeast. He said had years of experience with these things and he said he thought it was cancer. I tended to think it was just yeast and I would get better, just like last time… But the word cancer was used for the first time and the diagnosis was a lot closer than it ever had been. I started to worry. I was about the same age as my father was when he was diagnosed with his cancer.
Check back for the next "chapter" of the journey. And thank you for coming along for the ride.