Take Charge

Scott's Story: 'I Still Get Emotional When I Come Here'

April 13, 2017

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Scott was first diagnosed with esophageal cancer in October 2015. We had a chance to sit down him and ask about his experiences at Moffitt.

What were the symptoms you experienced leading up to your diagnosis?

I actually didn’t have any symptoms leading up to my diagnosis other than anemia. I underwent an endoscopy to find out where the anemia was coming from and that's how the esophageal cancer was found.

What went through your mind when you first received your diagnosis of esophageal cancer?

It was kind of a surreal experience. I was diagnosed by a GI physician in Puerto Rico. The nurse there took us into the exam room and then the doctor came in and said that he needed to speak to me in his office. At that point tears started to come to my eyes because I knew then and there that something was wrong. In one word, it was scary. And I had just had a pretty significant injury when I fell down some stairs a few years earlier in December of 2013, in which I broke my neck and spinal cord. My physician actually told me I would never walk again. So I had just overcome this really difficult injury with months of physical therapy. I had taken early retirement from my job. I had spent 23 years in the postal service and then my spinal cord injury made me realize that now was the time to live. Only eight months after retirement was I diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

What lead you to choose Moffitt Cancer Center for your treatment?

My girlfriend at the time was the one who spearheaded the decision to come to Moffitt. She had done a lot of research to find the best place for my treatment and I'm really grateful for that. We decided that Moffitt would be the best place for me and since then my experience here has been amazing.

What were some of your experiences with your treatment?

When we first got here, we were so nervous. My first experience was with the International Patients department because I was living in Puerto Rico at the time. The team there was amazing. They took us around Moffitt and showed us where everything was; they took us to GI clinic and showed me exactly where I would check in and where I would come for my appointments. And this all happened only a day after we flew here — that quickly. As soon as we came to Moffitt, they were ready for us. And a few days later, I had my first appointment with Dr. Jose Pimiento. The team here had already received and examined my pathology slides, had reviewed my case, and decided what the next steps were and what they were going to do. I came here in December and just a month later I was in surgery. My physician set me up so fast with getting PET and CT scans and every other step of the work up so that within just a few weeks I was ready to go for my surgery. My medical team here is amazing - and not just medical team, but really everyone, from the people who work in coffee shop to outpatient services to the valet. And the really great thing about Dr. Pimiento was that he was there in ICU with me, and he was there when I got PET and my other scans. He wanted to see the results for himself. And that’s very comforting for a patient with cancer, to have a physician who is going to be there with you for every step of the way no matter what. And Dr. Pimiento's physician assistant Sarah Lamby is amazing as well. She is just wonderful. 

Do you feel your care at Moffitt was better because of the team approach, with all members of the treatment team working closely together on your case?

Dr. Michael Fradley was my cardiologist here, Dr. Mark Friedman is my endoscopist, and Dr. Jose Pimiento was my surgeon. Every three to four months, I come back to Moffitt to have Botox injected into my esophagus. I also get blood work done when I come here for my follow-ups. Everyone is wonderful. There were often times when I didn’t have family staying with me here, so I went through some of my treatments here on my own. Moffitt coordinated with my GI physician in Puerto Rico and got the team assembled right away so that I could go to surgery very quickly and get the cancer removed before it progressed.

How has your quality of life been since your esophagectomy? How have things changed in your day-to-day life based on your cancer?

Things have changed dramatically for me. I now have to sleep at an angle, but the staff told me that this was going to happen so I was prepared for it. At night, I have to lie on my right side because if I sleep on my left side then whatever is in my stomach gets pushed up. But you get accustomed to it. I got an adjustable bed and also a transportable wedge mattress that I can bring with me anywhere, so I can still do everything that I did before as long as I have that. The first few weeks after surgery I slept in a chair, and then I went and bought my new mattress to help with the sleeping. My quality of life since my treatment has been good though. I play golf, which I love to do. I do everything that I did before I had my esophagectomy. I don’t feel restricted in anything, although my eating habits have changed a little bit. I can’t tolerate acidic foods like red sauce. But I’ve changed my diet and it’s been fine.

How has the support you have received at Moffitt Cancer Center been?

It’s been A+. Every single department I’ve interacted with has been amazing. I would go to MIP (Moffitt at International Plaza) for MRI scans and the people at that center are wonderful as well. I wouldn’t go anywhere else in the world. This place saved my life. I still get emotional even today when I come here. I still think back the first time I came to Moffitt and remember how scared I was - when I walked in the doors I was hit with realization that I have cancer. But the minute that I met with the first Moffitt staff I interacted with in the International Patient department, it was smooth sailing from there. There is no place in the world like Moffitt as far as I can see.