In Good Hands

Meet Dr. Alison Wallace, a Thoracic Surgeon at the Queen Elizabeth Health Sciences Centre in Halifax. Today (January 13, 2020), Janet, my sister Mona, and I met with Dr. Wallace to learn more about the status of my cancer and my treatment plan.

Last night my good friend Richie texted “How was ya Phil.” He knew about today’s meeting and how anxious and worried I was mulling over all the possible scenarios. Richie and I have a deep, close relationship laced with a comfortable sharing of emotions and wrapped in love. His text was his way of letting me know I was in his thoughts. I responded that tomorrow will be a “big day” and I am feeling healthy and fit and that I’m thankful to have him in my corner. Richie responded “I know tomorrow is the day, it’s my bday … been thinking about it since we spoke.” Just now (Monday around noon) I sent Richie the following message.

Happy Birthday!

Let’s pretend today is my birthday. I just got the best gift. My cancer has not spread and it is treatable.

With that said, there is a rough road ahead. I have appointments in the cancer clinic (that’s an intentional little c on the word cancer) on Thursday and Monday to get organized to start chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

It will be a 5-week round comprised of chemotherapy on day 1 as well as a radiation treatment. Days 2 – 5 are radiation treatments only. Then a break for 2 days and repeat for 4 more weeks.

Once complete, I’ll have another PET scan and endoscope. The PET scan is a way to check that the cancer is still localized. The endoscope allows Dr. Wallace to take a look at the location and size of the tumor in preparation for surgery.

The tissues harvested on December 18th confirmed the cancer cells are the type associated with esophageal cancer known as adenocaccinoma. The PET Scan last week revealed my cancer is localized to the tumor growing at the bottom of my esophagus and in 3 lymph nodes in the esophageal walls around the site. The cancer has not spread. My cancer is treatable.

Provided the results of the second PET Scan show the cancer remains localized to my esophagus and surrounding lymph nodes, I will head into an 8-hour surgery. In that surgery, the shaded section will be removed entirely and my stomach will be stretched and shaped for re-attachment to the little remaining part of my esophagus above the shaded section.

I can expect to be hospitalized for at least a week after the surgery when the risk of infection and other complications is very high. A common complication is a leakage where the stomach is reattached to what remains of my esophagus.

Dr. Wallace pointed out that my current good health, level of fitness, healthy eating and that I take no medications will serve me well during my recovery from the surgery.

This is very good news and such a relief. There is still plenty of story to tell but I think that we are at the end of this chapter.

Since you read this far, allow me to close by saying how much I value all the well wishes from family and friends. It is overwhelming and I love you and your willingness to be in my corner.

23 Replies to “In Good Hands”

  1. I am so happy to hear this ‘good news’. ( Funny how that phrase can be used in many contexts.) We are so blessed to have the experts and services in our city. By sharing your journey we share your stress, love, hope and optimism. Give us some of your stress and we will give you our love, hope and optimism. We’ve got you covered.

  2. Well, if the saying goes “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” then Janet’s cooking won’t have to travel as far! 😆 All the best for your surgery, Phil. xo

  3. Sending my prayers and well-wishes to you and to Janet. It will be a long and winding road for sure, but I have no doubt that everything is in God’s hands and He will take good care of all of you.

    1. God and I are having regular conversations. He has a plan in mind which in part includes this battle. My faith is strong. I’m glad to have you as a good friend in my corner.

  4. Well, I never thought I’d say this, in response to this sort of news but I feel good about this one.

    Perhaps 3+ years ago, when you were “plump” I’m not sure that you were physically strong enough to go to battle.
    HOWEVER for 3 years or so, I watched you drop weight get positioned for this fight.

    The amount of exercise that you’ve been consuming, to be able to eat and fill your body with the fuel to burn… was simply “training and preparation for this” and is probably what is going to make this the feel good story that I predict.

    Rob…. and Strickland family

    P.s. My birthday is June 15th, and I’ll plan to swap my birthday party for a Phil celebration party…

  5. I was reluctant to read today’s post but it was so good to hear. You got this. I remember telling my daughter Tori that my colorectal cancer had an 85% chance of being cured. And she responded with, “Well go get cured!”’ She was so matter-of-fact. I couldn’t let her down. So Phil, “Go get cured!” 🙂🙏

  6. I’m glad it was good news, keep that coming. It is great that you have so many people in your corner. You can handle this fight. The timing is good so you can recover before the Halifax beer run in October. Well planned, my friend. Keep up the good fight, you are already winning!

  7. Thinking of you Phil – sounds like a thorough treatment plan – I look forward to more news as you travel this journey – hang in there! All my love, Judy Durdle (Fetterly)

  8. Good news that you have such a talented healthcare team and supportive family and friends – I will be following your journey and routing for you all the way!!

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