The Chief's Story
To Serve and Protect
In late 2010, my father, Aged 70, started having difficulty swallowing food and he was having painful episodes of hiccups. I was very concerned and told both my mother and my father that I thought he should get to a doctor soon rather than later. My mother was sure that the reason my father was choking, was because he was eating too fast and his bites were too large. Every meal ended in the same argument. My mother was insisting that dad had a hernia of some sort will need to change your style. I kept insisting that my dad go to a doctor to get checked out. We continued back and forth like this for several weeks. And my mother had her doctors appointment. She was put on the bone strengthening drug. I recall hearing something about that drug causing the cancer of one form or another. The next day at work I googled that drug. There was a probable link between that pharmaceutical and Esophageal cancer. At the end of the article it listed seven warning signs of esophageal cancer. Number seven on that list was painful and recurring episodes of hiccuping. My father had all seven warning signs. With every cell of my being, I knew my father had cancer. I called my father immediately and told him what I read. He asked me to print out a copy of that article and bring it to them after I got off work. I told him I thought this was very important and he should come and get the article from me immediately. I also told him it was time to call a doctor. He said he would talk to mom and for me to just bring the article home. Within a few minutes I received a phone call from my mother, she was furious. She was very upset that I would call my dad and say something like he had cancer. I told her I was definite that dad had cancer. She said we would all talk after work. I told her if she didn't call the doctor that I was going to call the doctor. That did it. Mom called the doctor the next morning. There doctor could see dad right away, but after listening to mom describe the symptoms she went ahead and scheduled at endoscopic upper GI. The appointment was two weeks out and dad symptoms were getting worse every day. Fortunately, there was a cancellation and dad was offered that appointment. Dad had his procedure late the next Friday. My worst fears were confirmed. Dad had esophageal cancer and did it spread into his stomach. The doctor told dad to make an appointment with him to come in on Monday and have a feeding tube put in. He told that this was a very difficult cancer to fight and there really wasn't much to be done at this point. We left in silence. This is what I had been fearing for several weeks, but to hear those words was shocking.
There are no words to describe that weekend. We made phone calls to the family and comforted them the best we could. Everybody had so many questions and at that point we had no answers for them. I spent most of the time on my computer looking up any information I could find on this horrible cancer. Nothing that I read gave me any hope. I learned that 17,000 Americans are diagnosed with this type of cancer every year. I learned that the vast majority will not survive the year after diagnosis. I also learned that firefighters and Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange have a higher chance of getting this cancer than the average American. My father was both a firefighter and a Vietnam veteran had been exposed to Agent Orange during Operation Ranch Hand. By the end of that weekend I knew we were all in for the fight of his life.
Early Monday morning, dad's regular physician called to say that she had looked at the report . she stated that she saw nothing in it that led her to believe it was time for a feeding tube . she said there is been several new advancements in fighting this type of cancer and she was going to get that the very best oncologist in the area.
By the end of that day dad had an appointment to see that oncologist and the radiologist he recommended my parents . We all went to that appointment.My brother couldn't be there in person but he was able to listen in on a conference call. The oncologist laid out a treatment plan that involved my dad going to Kalispell and getting a stent. After the stent was put in my dad would then begin a course of chemotherapy and radiation . After the chemo and radiation my dad would return to Kalispell and have surgery there to remove his esophagus . He then scheduled my father for a scan and more blood work . The scan showed the cancer was indeed into his stomach and that it had spread into the surrounding lymph nodes . Even though the news was grim he offered us a lot of hope .
The stent was successfully put in at Kalispell and dad handled did the procedure well . It was amazing to watch dad eat and drink without choking . I felt hopeful for the first time since the diagnosis