Like many men his age, Leonard was instructed by his doctor to have a routine colonoscopy. While at the hospital, it was also suggested he have a gastroscopy given his long history of heartburn. Leonard wasn’t in a rush to do the test and he’d hoped to wait a couple more years to have that procedure done, but at the insistence of his doctor he was persuaded to have both tests that day.
Leonard was shocked to learn that his endoscopy showed Barretts esophagus which is a pre-cancerous condition of the esophagus that can develop in people with a long history of heartburn. A small cancer was also noted to be growing within the Barretts area. He was devastated. “I’ve never had a sick day in my life. Emotionally, it tore me up,” Leonard said.
After spending many hours talking it through with his close-knit family, and at the insistence of his daughter-in-law, Leonard made an appointment with Dr. Gunaratnam, one of a few gastreoenterologists in Michigan who is experienced in endoscopic treatment of esophageal cancer. He is a physician at Huron Gastro and works at the Center for Digestive Care on the campus of St. Joseph Mercy Hospital.
After performing an endoscopic ultrasound (EUS), Dr. Gunaratnam gave Leonard a bit of good news…his cancer hadn’t spread to anywhere else in his body. Now there were two options for Leonard to consider - having his esophagus removed, which is considered standard care for this condition, or undergoing several endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR) treatments to remove the cancer, a less invasive procedure offered at SJMH for the treatment of early stage esophageal cancer.
“There was only one choice was for me. If they completely removed my esophagus and made me less active, I don’t think I would want to live anymore,” Leonard said. “My wife and I travel, we camp together…we go to restaurants. We’ve been married for 57 years, have three children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren…that keeps me very busy!”
After four outpatient treatments where he was discharged home an hour after each procedure with no side effects, Leonard feels great and is now cancer free. “If I hadn’t had the tests that day, I might not have made it. The cancer was in me and would have continued to grow. My advice now is to listen to your doctor. Dr. G, as I call him, got me in for an appointment very fast and treated me right! I can’t thank him and his staff enough – they saved my life!”