Esophageal Cancer Survivor
Rick had already beaten Hepatitis C and testicular cancer when at the age of 56, he noticed a strange lump—or “nodule” as he called it—while relaxing at home with his wife Christina. Understandably suspicious, he went to the doctor the next day to request an X-ray. Certain it was just a fatty cyst, his doctor told him there was no reason for an X-ray. A second doctor agreed, and also discouraged him from getting an X-ray, leading him to a third doctor who agreed to order one. It was a good decision. The cyst was indeed benign, but Rick’s doctor noticed something else and decided to perform a CT scan. After undergoing the CT scan, Rick was told he had a thickening of the esophageal wall.
He made an appointment with his gastroenterologist, having seen him for previous health issues. Following a scope, he was informed that the results indicated the strong possibility of cancer. Rick’s doctor suggested he go to Moffitt Cancer Center for his treatment, but he decided to do his homework first, researching cancer facilities in Texas, Arizona and several other states. Rick quickly came to the same conclusion. “Moffitt was the place to go. I mean, this was it.”
Esophageal cancer is no walk in the park. “You’ve got to be a tough cookie to get through it,” says Rick. And he was. After removal of his esophagus through the Ivor-Lewis procedure, he was required to stay at Moffitt for eight days while the sutures healed—consuming no water or even ice. The self-professed “warrior” was quickly back in action. “On the fifth day I had done 25 laps around the nurses’ station,” he recalls. Remarkably, Rick sees the glass as half full. “I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world to have cancer because I have become so much more compassionate. I worry more about people.”
While he was recovering, he was asked to speak to a man who had just had the same procedure, but had developed a serious infection. Rick shared his insights and encouraged him to fight through his struggles. When thinking about his newfound perspective, he says, “If it’s to do these things to encourage people, maybe that’s what my goal in life is now, just to encourage people to say, if I can do it, certainly you can do it.” A veteran, Rick now gives back by making medical appointments for other veterans in the V.A.
He firmly believes the reputation of Moffitt gives cancer patients the courage “to be able to carry on through whatever it is that you have.”