The esophagus is the muscular tube that carries food from your throat to your stomach. In the last 20 years, there has been in increase in esophageal cancer caused by untreated chronic acid reflux. Nancy Naeve Brown met a Sioux Falls man who has late stage cancer in the base of his esophagus, but found a treatment at Avera McKennan that saved him from getting a feeding tube.
Jim Schwerin of Sioux Falls was diagnosed in August 2010 with advanced esophageal cancer. He has an aggressive tumor where the esophagus meets the stomach. By the time he was diagnosed the cancer had metastasized or spread to his liver, lungs and lymph nodes. Surgery was not an option so he started chemo therapy almost immediately and will be on it indefinitely. A few weeks ago he noticed he was having trouble getting food down. He turned to Avera Gastroenterologist Dr. Christopher Hurley to endoscopically place a stent at the base of his esophagus to keep it open allowing food to get to his stomach.
Dr. Hurley says, "This is a metal mesh stent expands like chicken wire. It expands to open up and has strength to keep open because it fights against what's compressing factors the tumor or what's causing the narrowing. It has a covering on it so the tumor can't grow in it."
Jim says, "If it would close I would need a feeding tube so we had to act quickly."
Dr. Hurley says, "If his condition improved, the stent can be removed, but the aim really is to provide comfort to him so he can eat, drink keep healthy and nourished to let him keep taking chemo."
Jim had just gotten his stent the day before this interview and he says his only complaint is heartburn, but don't get me wrong, he's not complaining very loudly about that or anything.
Jim says, "I'm feeling quite good. It's amazing when you have a proper attitude about things you can feel fantastic. Now I have good and bad days, but I choose to remember and talk about the good times."
Jim really is a glass half-full not half-empty kind of guy. Even though there is no cure for his cancer he is extremely grateful that at least he can still drink from that proverbial glass and eat thanks to Dr. Hurley and perfectly placed stent.
Jim says he has to stay upright at all time because the stent keeps his stomach valve open so in order to keep acid from going back up, he has to stay up and that includes sleeping sitting up. And again you won't hear him complain.