“My husband has lived to meet his second grandchild and is the first pilot ever to return to commercial flying after a diagnosis of stage four esophageal cancer.”
My husband Randy is a pilot with American Airlines, and we love to travel. During a trip in the fall of 2016, Randy started having trouble swallowing. We visited a friend who was a doctor, assuming we could get him tested, get medication, and be back on the road again.
But Randy was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer, and our world immediately turned upside down. We saw dozens of doctors and kept getting bad news. At one point, we were told that his case was terminal.
We heard about someone who had the same kind of cancer and received traditional radiation. That person only survived for eight more months.
The situation seemed bleak, but something kept entering my mind—proton therapy. I don’t remember reading about it or hearing anyone talk about it, but I kept wondering about it. During the flurry of doctor visits I asked one of the oncologists about the treatment, but he was dismissive about its efficacy.
Nevertheless, I called the proton therapy center in Knoxville, and a nurse told us she would take Randy’s case to the doctors at the center. She called back the next day and told us that they thought they could help.
Our insurance did not initially cover the treatment and we know that many other people have to fight to get coverage (or go with a less preferable option). And some people don’t even know that proton therapy exists!
Luckily, Randy had proton therapy in Knoxville and is now cancer-free. We know it is a miracle, and even though he has had other health issues, we can still enjoy traveling.
We have now become Ambassadors for proton therapy. Everywhere we go, I hand out brochures from the Knoxville proton therapy center and share Randy’s story.
My husband has lived to meet his second grandchild and is the first pilot ever to return to commercial flying after a diagnosis of stage four esophageal cancer. We pray for the day that patients not only know about proton therapy, but don’t have to fight their insurance company while they are fighting their cancer.