In January, 1999, I decided I would retire at the end of the year. I planned to gradually move into full retirement by reducing my work week to three days. I intended to use the extra free time 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 plan for me.
As 1999 progressed, I was still searching for something interesting to do in retirement. In November, I attended Chiltington’s Annual Partners Meeting in Hamburg, Germany. I was Vice Chairman and CEO of Chiltington Inc. and was responsible for their U.S. operations.
First Sign Of A Problem
At dinner one evening, a piece of steak got stuck in my esophagus and the pain in my chest was intense. 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 thought about what had happened at dinner in Hamburg.
During the week of my return, however, I had lunch with a client and it happened again, this time while I was eating a hamburger. I sensed something was wrong and went to my doctor. He immediately scheduled an Upper GI Series for the following day. I had the test done the following morning, and by afternoon I learned that I had esophageal cancer.
My Esophageal Cancer Journey
In other blog posts, I have explained the process I went through, including chemo, radiation therapy and surgery, as well as the post-surgical issues I encountered. (See the links to these articles and other posts in this series below.)
MSKCC Patient-To-Patient Program
After I got through the treatments, I wanted to give something back to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and to the doctors who saved my life. Dr. Bains, my surgeon, recommended that I volunteer with the Patient-to-Patient Program at MSKCC.
The Patient-To-Patient program connects cancer survivors with patients who are going through the treatment process for esophageal cancer. In the 12 years that Ginny and I have been involved in this program we have talked to over 1,000 patients.
Esophageal Cancer Education Foundation
We also formed the Esophageal Cancer Education Foundation (ECEF). Our mission is to bring awareness and educate the public about this disease. We’re proud of the work we’ve done through the foundation and of the video we’ve sponsored to help raise public awareness of esophageal cancer.
(Video not playing? Watch it on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvdBJZ_EonI)
We are committed to walk the journey with patients who have this disease. We have support groups that meet once a month and have produced a book called Esophagectomy Post Surgical Guide Questions and Answers. We also have a hot line 732-385-7461 for quality of life questions.
Another major focus of the foundation is to support research projects what will lead to early detection. To date, we have raised over $400,000 to support research projects.
Esophageal Cancer Was God’s Plan For Me
In 1999, I could not imagine that esophageal cancer was God’s plan for me. If the journey ahead had been revealed to me, what might my answer have been?
Imagine being told I want you to take on a deadly disease and become a resource for other patients by forming a foundation to increase public awareness and raise money to find a early detection of this disease.
My answer at the time would have been, no way!
But, as it turns out, God’s plan has given me a purpose in life that I could never have imagined when I was searching for something to do in retirement.
Bart Frazzitta is an esophageal cancer survivor and the founder of the Esophageal Cancer Education Foundation (ECEF). Read more of his story here >