Jerry Vanderwoude

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Esophageal Cancer Treatment

Esophageal Cancer Patient Stories

Benign Esophageal Tumor - Minimally Invasive Esophageal Surgery
Jerry Vanderwoude

The summer of 2006 was no fun for Jerry Vanderwoude. He was the victim of a car accident that left him unable to work. He lost his job and spent the next 7 months looking for a new one. The following spring, Jerry landed a great new job as a refrigeration technician for Scanlon Associates in its steel plant. Just 4 months later, in the winter of 2008, Jerry began choking on his food at every meal. He wrote it off to the fact that he was eating too fast - or maybe not chewing properly.

"My family doctor sent me to a local hospital for some testing," Jerry recalled.

"The doctors there were stumped. They weren't sure what was in my chest. They suggested I go to Fox Chase Cancer Center."

Doctors at Fox Chase diagnosed Jerry, who was 49 at the time, with a rare benign tumor on the wall of his esophagus. Surgery was the only option to remove the tumor.

"The first doctor I saw explained the traditional surgery, which would involve a rather large incision, a week long hospital stay and 3 months out of work. I was discouraged because I couldn't risk losing another job," said Jerry. Then he told Jerry about laparoscopic surgery—a minimally invasive technique that would involve smaller incisions and a shorter recovery time.

"After my surgery, I was up walking around the same day. I felt fabulous."

Due to the type and location of Jerry's tumor, and the fact that it had not spread, his surgeon was able to perform a complete laparoscopic resection of the esophageal tumor. The surgery did not require esophagectomy (esophageal resection) because it was a rare type of tumor; more common esophageal tumor types generally require esophagectomy.

A tiny video camera was inserted, allowing the surgeon to view the surgical field. Surgical tools were inserted through 4 tiny incisions that minimized bleeding and scarring. The diseased part of the esophagus wall was successfully removed and there was no need for additional treatment.

Jerry only had to stay in the hospital for 3 nights.

"I couldn't believe how great I felt. I was back to work in a week which was really important to me."

"Everything at Fox Chase was amazing - the doctors, the nurses, the whole hospital. I would recommend it to anyone who has cancer," said Jerry.

Just 4 months after surgery, Jerry is back in the swing of things. He and his wife Dawn have 5 children age 14 to 23. Dawn said, "He has returned to restoring his Harley Davidson motorcycle and 1967 Cougar. He didn't let cancer stop him from living life."