I always wanted to be a journalist and I am proud of some of my accomplishments but I never expected to be a “poster child” for esophageal cancer.
It is a disease that did not have to happen. At 98 pounds I am not obese, not a smoker or a big drinker – the usual causes for this type of cancer. But I did share something with 30 million Americans – acid reflux. It was not something to worry about; everyone I knew who was older had it and I was getting older. I gobbled Tums and then I started taking popular “inhibitors”. This took away the acid reflux and I was fine until late last summer when I had difficulty digesting food which eventually became impossible. Fortunately Dr. Gary Annunziata talked me into having an endoscopy something no doctor had suggested in the almost 40 years of my acid reflux. I was told the endoscopy showed a tumor. The following day I had a CT-scan and a PET scan. The next day, Oct. 31, I was given the news - the tumor in my esophagus was malignant. I had stage 3 esophageal cancer. (the cancer had sneaked into a small node near my windpipe.)
I didn’t wait. Four days later I started nine weekly chemotherapy treatments under guidance of desert oncologist Dr. Amy Law at EMC’s Desert Hematology
and underwent daily radiation for five weeks supervised by Dr. Peter Greenburg at Century 21 Oncology. Thanks to them the cancer in my esophagus and cancerous node were 100 percent gone by Dec. 30.
I never thought of myself as a cancer victim, only as a cancer survivor who would be able to warn others that acid reflux which so many people have in the USA is not as innocent as it appears. Of the 30 million, 17,000 develop esophageal cancer. It is a small percentage unless one of those 17,000 happens to be you.
It is up to our readers with acid reflux to insist on being tested every few years with an upper GI or endoscopy to be certain they are not one of those who will develop esophageal cancer.
So my message is clear. Don’t ignore what is often called heartburn – insist on a simple test that could save your life.
I am indeed honored that the American Cancer Society Desert Spirit Gala Committee chose me to receive the “Inspiration Award” at the Palm Springs Convention Center April 12. It’s important for all of us to support research to find the cure for the many kinds of cancer.
(Greer is the Social Life editor of Palm Springs Life; hosts and produces two television shows for PBS, Exploring the Arts and Classic Conversations on KVCR TV as well as continuing her Time Warner Cable series. Greer’s background in print and electronic media includes 25 years as entertainment editor and anchor of the nightly NBC affiliate, KMIR- TV plus editor/publisher of Sand To Sea magazine for over 20 years and later sold to Palm Springs Life.)