By Donald E. Low, MD, FACS
Ellensburg resident Kathleen (Kathi) Brunson is lucky and she knows it. Her good fortune – namely in the form of better health – is something she’s thankful for every day.
The 75-year-old Japanese-American, who was a legal secretary in Ellensburg for almost 30 years, was diagnosed with advanced esophageal cancer in 2006 after her primary care physician insisted there be further testing on her throat after she mentioned some recent trouble swallowing during an annual checkup.
That simple mention eventually lead to the discovery of a cancerous mass in her esophagus and a referral to Virginia Mason. After many weeks of chemotherapy and radiation at Virginia Mason Memorial’s North Star Lodge in Yakima, I performed Mrs. Brunson’s surgery in Seattle.
Now, 10 years later, she is healthy and cherishing every minute with her husband, two married daughters and four grandchildren.
Although Mrs. Brunson periodically wonders what might have caused her cancer, especially since she didn’t have any of the typical risk factors and has eaten a vegetable-rich diet most of her life, she tells people all the time to listen to their bodies and be their own best health advocates.
As Mrs. Brunson can attest, education, awareness and being proactive are critical to helping put people in the best position to successfully battle cancer.
If you’ve ever been affected by a cancer diagnosis, a screening exam is common. [Read more…]