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.

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Bart Frazzitta is an esophageal cancer survivor and the founder of the Esophageal Cancer Education Foundation (ECEF). Read more of his story here >

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