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Esophageal Cancer: Overwhelming Emotions

Bart Frazzitta, Esophageal Cancer SurvivorAfter my initial diagnosis, I was overwhelmed with a wave of emotion as I tried to get a grip on what I had just been told:

You have esophageal cancer and you will have about a 5-10% chance of living 5 years after undergoing aggressive chemo, radiation and major surgery.

 The first question that entered my mind was, why me? I didn’t drink or smoke. I’d been an athlete in college and never did any kind of drugs. I had a beautiful family and was within a few short years of realizing my dream of retiring when, suddenly, this happens.

All My Plans For The Future Are Disrupted

I’d already begun to plan for the day when I could leave behind my stressful job in the insurance industry. In January 1999, I decided to go to a 3-day work schedule. By 2000, I hoped to be fully retired and enjoying free time on the golf course.
Now, just months from achieving that long-held dream, I learned I had esophageal cancer and only a 5-10% chance of living 5 years. This was not fair and I asked God to be with me and show me the way.
Since 1973 I have lived by the motto, Make where you are better because you are there. I truly felt I had been successful in living that affirmation every day. I did not hold on to resentments or ill feelings. Even in court rooms where I was called to testify as an expert witness in major insurance and reinsurance cases, I did not take the opposition strategies personally.
In fact, I was proud of my professionalism and always tried to part with a handshake. Once, after facing down an especially tough attorney, we received a call from him asking if I would take on a case for him. It made me feel as if I had proven the truth of my life’s motto.

Where Had I Gone Wrong?

What was I doing wrong? What is God’s plan for me? I was rocked by uncertainty but, with the encouragement of my family and close friends, I was able to rekindle my spirit.  With their help I kept up the strength to fight this monster, and let God decide the outcome.
I came to realize that the experiences of yesterday are in the past, and I can’t do anything about them. The future is unknown and I have no certainty about what will happen tomorrow. All I really have is the present moment — right now. If I live that moment to the fullest, alert to everything around me, I will see the work of God’s hand in my life.

My New Priorities

When I look back on my life, I realize that throughout my career I rarely took time to stop and smell the roses. Every morning I was at my desk by 6:00 AM and didn’t get home until 7:00 at night.
Work was my entire life. For years I was a “road warrior” traveling to clients all over the world. I achieved platinum status with the airlines and held premier customer status with all the major hotels.
Now, looking back, I realize that I took many things for granted and failed to appreciate so many of the gifts that life has to offer. The esophageal cancer diagnosis gave me new priorities. It forced me to recognize that life is short and that my demise was a real possibility.

My Resolve To Fight Esophageal Cancer

With the support and prayers of my family, friends and community, I resolved that I would fight this monster with all my heart, mind and spirit.
As my wife, Ginny, often said, “I have a good feelings about what we are doing to fight this battle.” She has truly been the backbone of my will to fight esophageal cancer.
Bart Frazzitta is an esophageal cancer survivor and the founder of the Esophageal Cancer Education Foundation (ECEF). Read more of his story here >


  • My husband had surgery 5 days ago and is going through depression. What can I do to help him?

    • Is he exercising? He should be walking in the hospital at least 1 mile a day. Why is he depressed? Did the surgery go well? Give me a call and we can talk about it. 732-385-7461

  • I am just beginning this awful scary journey. PET scan Friday then surgeon and oncologist visits Monday. Very scared, losing weight…I am a small 58 yr old woman but 103lbs is frightening to me. I know I’m going to need my strength. The area of tumor is right where esophagus meets stomach. Praying for the Best!

    • Cathy
      We are here to help you with your journey through this disease. Any question you have I hope I can be of help in responding to those questions. Where are you being treated and Who will do the surgery and what hospital will that be done at.
      Take care

  • Beth Israel Hospital in Boston.
    Dr. Critchlow will be my surgeon
    I will have many questions in the days to come. Please don’t disappear. It’s just the beginning. Thank You

    • Cathy
      Your welcome. We will be mailing the book Esophagectomy Post Surgical Guide Q&A out to you in the next day or so.
      Good Luck

  • PET scan tomorrow. Very nervous to find out whether it spread or not!!! Then more waiting until Monday to get the results!!
    Will be looking out for the book. Knowledge is power!
    Thank You

    • Cathy
      You need to stay positive. It is important that you exercise even now. Try walking 1- 1 1/2 miles three times a week. You have a body, mind and spirit. Get confident with your doctors. Make yourself think positive and make your inner feeling (spirit) enhance that positive feeling.
      You can’t do anything about the past, and the future you have no control over so don’t worry about it as you have no control. Jusy live in the moment and make that a positive experience.
      The book will be mailed today.
      Good luck

  • My mother was just diagnosed with Esophageal cancer at the GE Junction. Shes 77 years old and not in the best health. she has heart issues (Stents), high blood pressure and diabetes. I’m terrified she will not be able to withstand this surgery. Is there any other alternative? She’s being treated at MSK by Dr Molena

    • Before they undertake the surgery on your Mom they will do pre-surgery tests to make sure that they can do the surgery. Dr. Molena is on the Esophageal Cancer Education Foundation Medical Advisory Committee and participates in our post surgery conference call meetings for patients and their caregivers. You should ask her if there are any alternatives that she would recommend other than the surgery. Tell her your fears and see what she says.
      I had my chemo, radiation and surgery done at MSKCC. This May I will celebrate 17 years from that surgery. After you get the answers to your questions think positively and make sure your Mom is with you on that. Positive mind, body and spirit will help you and her through the process. It has helped me.
      Good luck

  • I received my diagnosis of Stage 3 squamous cell esophageal cancer. I have met with the onocolgist today. Have the port implanted March 2. Radiologist on March 9 to discuss treatment plan after mapping. Meet with Surgeon May 18th. I have been told the chemo can affect my kidneys and hearing. Getting evaluation and baseline next week. I feel everything is moving so fast and I am trying to process everything. Your blog has been the best source of info fo me. Thank you. I would like your book and to join the monthly calls please.

    • Hi Holy
      Please go to our web site and click on the JOIN button. You will see a bunch of questions one of which is would you like to be in a support group say YES and hit send and I will give you the information about the group meeting by return email. It is free and we meet by conference call in the evening at 8:00PM (ET). We have a group on Wednesday and a group on Thursday. Both are once a month. Look forward to hearing from you
      Good luck and take care

    • Holly
      sorry. You can get the book on our web site or you can get it through Amazon or your local book store. It is published by Authorhouse.

  • I’m having surgery in 2 weeks. I’ve read your posts several times. Been staying positive and and have a great support group. Thank you for the help.

    • All the best with your surgery. We have a conference call support group that meets on a Wednesday evening and one that meets on a Thursday evening. If you are interested please go to our web site and join and say yes to the support group question.
      Take care

  • My Dads esophagitis is in 5 th week now post radiation treatment. He can’t eat or drink much of anything. Oncologist put him on TPN one week ago and not much improvement. Seems to be taking too long to heal.

  • My cancer has been caught early. the surgeon recommends one of two surgeries depending on what further biopsies show. Should I stick with the surgeon or get advice from a cancer specialist. Seems like these guys are very cancer aware but– they are surgeons and like to cut.

    • Are you at a cancer center? I assume you have esophageal cancer? How many of these surgeries have they done in a year? You want to be at a center that does about 35 or more of these a year.Hospitals that do many of these surgeries have better outcomes. Varied opinions as to open surgery versus minimally invasive. Depends on the surgeon and how many of these he or she has done. If you want to talk about this call me at 732-385-7461

  • Hello ,
    I am 15 months post surgery. I had my trans hiatal esophagectomy at Mayo clinic in Rochester Minnesota on December 15, 2017. Chemo and radiation were a breeze for me and surgery went off without a hitch. I was very lucky. My problem is that I have a stricture of anastomosis that does not want to stay open. It is a daily struggle to eat and take fluids and they are reluctant to put in a feeding tube. In 2018 I had more than a dozen EGDs with dilatation. I have tried self dilation and cannot get it past 27 on the dialator. The last time I had a dialation was January 23, 2019. My gastroenterologist mentioned that I have a twist at the anastamosis and self dialationwillnot work for me. Today during a visit with my doctor he mentioned placing a stent. My surgeon at Mayo warned me not to do that last spring and I have a call into him regarding this. Do you know anything about stents pro and con. Any help would be appreciated.

    • I have asked other surgeons as to what they would do with your situation and I am awaiting their replies.
      Take care

    • HI Mary
      I spoke to an gastroenterologist who said that Mayo has done a significant mount of work on Stents and that you should ask a gastroenterologist at Mayo about it. I think the surgeons view is that these stents can move and can create problems.
      Take care

  • Hi Bart,
    My husband has just been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Additional tests are being performed to establish stage and the treatment plan. Everything I am reading recommends contacting a major cancer center that does high volume esophagectomies. How does one determine that? While I am familiar with most of those centers, I am finding it hard to zero in on the frequency of treating esophageal cancer and/or performing esophagectomy.

    • Hi Mary
      You are absolutely correct in looking for a cancer center that deals with esophagectomy surgeries and a surgeon that mentions them in his resume.
      I may be of help. Tell me where you are located and I will see if we know of a cancer center and surgeon in your area. Send me that information at
      Take care

    • HI Karen
      If by normal you mean, the way it was before the surgery all I can say is I am nineteen years out from surgery and I can’t eat what I use to eat prior to my surgery. I am very happy with what i call a NEW NORMAL. I now can eat three small meals a day and a snack or piece of fruit in between meals. My weight is where I want it to be, maybe a few pounds overweight. I can eat everything I ate before the surgery just not a lot of it. I have a glass of wine when we go out to eat which is about 4-5 times a month.
      We have conference call support groups that meet once a month. The call usually last about one hour and it is comprised of patient asking questions about issues they are experiencing. We have two surgeons on the call as well. If you would like to be part of that please go to our web site and click on the JOIN button and check the support group question. The conference call is in the evening at 8:00 PM (ET). This service is free.
      If you would like to talk about it you can call me at 732-385-7461
      Take care

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