Swallowing, ER Visits, and a Plan

So this past Monday was 6 weeks since I had my esophagectomy. The first 4 weeks went exceptionally well. The 5th and 6th week – not so good. In the end of the 4th week I was eating half of a burrito bowl at Chipotle in one sitting. For the last 2 weeks I can get water down my throat if I am lucky.

The Pill

This turn of events from eating to not eating all started with a pill. I had been doing so well eating that I got cleared to take pain medication via a pill as opposed to liquid. I decided to start small and try a Tylenol gel cap. As soon as it cleared to back of my throat I felt it stick.

I waited out the night but it still felt like it was stuck so I went to the ER. They did an emergency EGD on me and while the pill was no longer there the are of the surgery was extremely irritated. I was sent home and told to do liquids for 48hrs which I did. On the third day I was back at Chipotle. By the second bite I felt like something might be stuck again. As the day went on the sensation went away but things were slow in going down. The next day it was worse. The day after that I could not get water down my throat.

Another trip to the ER

This time they did find something stuck and removed it. They also saw that the diameter of my esophagus was even smaller. It was now about the diameter of a pen or pencil. I was placed on clear liquids only and sent home. I stuck to the restriction of clear liquids but by Monday the following week getting water down was again an issue.

That same day I had a visit to discuss the plan to get me back to normal with my GI doctor. He had scheduled me for another EGD the following day (today as a matter of fact) to do another dilation. Unfortunately he didn’t (and couldn’t) have much of a plan because he needed to see how my esophagus. We discussed more dilations, maybe a stent, and maybe another surgery. We would just have to see.

The EGD Results

The result of today’s EGD is that my esophagus was 4mm in diameter and he dilated me to 8mm. A normal person’s esophagus is 18mm so mine with the dilation is less then half of most people. I am on liquids only which is fine with me since I could not get anything down before today.

With what my doctor has seen with today’s procedure he has decided that a stent is the best course of action. The reason for this is that my esophagus is just not responding well to dilation and so doing several more of those isn’t going to help. They have already contacted the stent company and are hoping to have it placed within the next week.

The stent is not a permanent solution as it comes with it’s own set of restrictions. It will however allow me to eat and prevent things from getting stuck. I see a lot of soups in my future 🙂 .

My Take

While this has been a rough 2 weeks I am glad that we are making progress. I should have this portion of the journey behind me in time for my start of chemo in week. Wish me luck in that journey.

Thanks again to everyone’s help, support, and prayers during this time. It helps more then you know.

Clarification

After reading through all of this I just wanted to clarify that the reason for the narrowing of my esophagus is a direct result of the surgery that I had and not because there is cancer there.

I was a little concerned about this but my GI doc takes biopsies each time he is down there and they each come back negative. So we are not fighting cancer here, we are just experiencing some unfortunate side effects from the surgery that I had. The expectation of everyone is that over time my esophagus will return to a normal diameter and that this will no longer be a issue. I just have to been patient until then.