In January, 1999, I decided I would retire at the end of the year. I planned to gradually move into full retirement byÂ reducing my work week to three days. I intendedÂ to useÂ the extraÂ free timeÂ to figure out what I was going to do, come January 1, 2000. What happened was not in my plan but, as it turned out, esophageal cancer was God’s planÂ for me.
As 1999 progressed, I was still searching for something interesting to do in retirement. In November, I attended Chiltingtonâ€™s Annual Partners Meeting in Hamburg, Germany. Â I was Vice Chairman and CEO of Chiltington Inc. and was responsible for their U.S. operations.
First Sign Of AÂ Problem
At dinner one evening, a piece of steak got stuck in my esophagus and the pain in my chest was intense. Â I jumped up from the table, and at that moment, the piece of steak cleared my esophagus and the pain went away instantly. The remaining trip was uneventful and I returned home without further thoughtÂ about what had happened at dinner in Hamburg.
During the week ofÂ my return, however, I had lunch with a client and it happened again, thisÂ time while I was eating a hamburger. I sensedÂ something was wrong andÂ went toÂ my doctor. He immediately scheduled an Upper GI Series for the following day. I hadÂ the test done the following morning, and byÂ afternoon I learned that I had esophageal cancer.
My Esophageal Cancer Journey
In other blog posts, I have explained the process I went through, includingÂ chemo, radiation therapy andÂ surgery, as well as the post-surgical issues I encountered. (See the links to these articles and other postsÂ in this series below.)
MSKCC Patient-To-Patient Program
AfterÂ IÂ got through the treatments, I wantedÂ to give something back to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC)Â and to the doctors whoÂ saved my life. Dr.Â Bains, my surgeon, recommended that I volunteer withÂ the Patient-to-Patient Program at MSKCC.
The Patient-To-Patient programÂ connects cancer survivors with patients who are going through the treatment process for esophageal cancer. In the 12 years that Ginny and IÂ have been involved in this programÂ we have talked to over 1,000 patients.
Esophageal Cancer Education Foundation
We also formed the Esophageal Cancer Education Foundation (ECEF). Our mission is toÂ bring awareness and educate the public about this disease.Â We’re proud of the work we’ve done through the foundationÂ and of theÂ video we’veÂ sponsored toÂ help raiseÂ public awareness of esophageal cancer.
In 1999, I could not imagine thatÂ esophageal cancer wasÂ God’s plan for me. If the journey ahead had been revealed to me, what might my answer have been?
Imagine being told,Â Â I want you to take on a deadly disease and becomeÂ a resource for other patients by formingÂ a foundationÂ to increaseÂ publicÂ awareness and raise money to find a early detection of this disease.
My answer at the time would have been,Â no way!
But, as it turns out, God’s plan has given me a purpose in lifeÂ that I could never have imagined when I was searching for something to do in retirement.
Bart Frazzitta is anÂ esophageal cancerÂ survivor and the founder of the Esophageal Cancer Education Foundation (ECEF). ReadÂ moreÂ of his story here >
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