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“I didn’t know how bad it was when I first went in,” says John Board, 57, who had long suffered from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) with symptoms of severe discomfort after eating, prolonged feelings of heart burn in spite of medication and excessive belching. The esophagus is a muscular tube approximately a foot to a foot-and-a-half in length that connects the middle part of the throat to the stomach.
Earlier this summer, after years of discomfort, doctors diagnosed Board with Barrett’s esophagus – a precursor for esophageal cancer. During a scheduled procedure to treat the Barrett’s, doctors found a small lesion which proved to be cancerous upon biopsy. Esophageal cancer is the fastest-growing cancer in the United States.
Board was immediately referred to Chirag Patel, MD, a Norton Thoracic Institute surgeon. Headquartered at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital in downtown Phoenix, the Institute recently expanded their presence in the East Valley at Chandler Regional, specializes in the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the lungs, chest or esophagus.
“Dr. Patel is the best doctor I have ever been to in my life,” says Board who works in the service department at a local repair center. “He has the best bedside manner. After a while, he and the staff at Chandler Regional started to feel like family; they just treated me and my family so awesome.”
Board’s cancer resection required an esophagectomy which involves removing up to two-thirds of the esophagus and reconnecting the digestive tract by repositioning the stomach inside the chest. The surgery itself can take a minimum of four hours, but on average takes approximately six hours to complete.
“It’s a big operation,” explains Dr. Patel. Board’s surgery was a first for the Chandler hospital. “We brought in special equipment and worked as a team to provide thorough training to the operating room and ICU staff. John has recovered very well and is completely free of cancer.”
Board spent nearly two weeks in the hospital after surgery and it took a while to regain his strength. As with all patients who have an esophagectomy, he first needed a feeding tube when he returned home and now is able to eat a regular diet. Happy he can ride his bike around the park again no longer needing the assistance of a walker, Board has his sight set on the next goal; returning to work.
“It’s not been easy,” says Board, “but I feel better now than I have in years. I am cancer free, thanks to Dr. Patel and his team. I am grateful and blessed to have more time with my wife, Donna, and our kids and grandkids.”