Despite 5% Chance Survival, Julian Kicks Cancer
Julian Booth was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2006. It was fortunately found at 'stage one' due to the regular check-ups Julian had after an incident years earlier; in 1997, after experiencing symptoms that indicated he was bleeding internally, he was taken to the hospital where they discovered a severe ulcer. It was treated right away without complication, but the surgeon discovered that Julian might have Barrett's Esophagus*. Julian's doctors began monitoring his condition with regular endoscopies. Everything was fine until 2002 when they found cancerous cells in his esophagus, and opted to remove it while simultaneously constructing a new esophagus with his stomach tissue. Subsequent endoscopies showed no major issues, until 2006, when his doctors found a tumor at the juncture where his new esophagus and his stomach were connected.
Julian's oncology team recommended a hard-hitting dose of radiation therapy and chemotherapy to shrink the tumor. His radiation team used respiratory-gating technology, in which a block is placed on the patient's chest or stomach, and is monitored by an infrared camera in the room. "When I breathed, they had it calibrated in such a way that when my chest reached an exact, particular point, it triggered the burst (of radiation)." This advance in radiotherapy allows the patient to breathe comfortably while radiation is delivered at the moments where exposure to healthy tissue by the beam is minimized. To help position him comfortably and accurately, Julian lay in a unique body mold made for him while the gantry—the part of the machine that delivers the radiation—rotated around him.
Julian's skin did blister while he underwent radiation therapy, but his nurses took good care of him to help it heal. "The doctors said they gave me the maximum dose that they could possibly think I would tolerate." He was uncomfortable for a short time, but it only took about two weeks after treatment ended for Julian's skin to heal.
After 25 treatments, five days a week for five weeks, he said goodbye to his team, grateful for his chance at survival. "I understand that the survival rate for esophageal cancer is something like 5%, which is not exactly what you'd call 'good odds.'" But thanks to the discovery of his cancer at an early stage, and the aggressive treatment he received, Julian is alive and well in 2011 and enjoys his highly active life at the age of 82.
"I'm in good shape. As a matter of fact, we're starting out on a traveling trip with our truck and camper that will last 46 days starting here and going to Colorado, Montana, Minnesota, Kansas City, Savannah Georgia back through Texas... 7,000 miles driving with my truck. So you know we've got to be in reasonably good shape to even think about that!"
*According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Barrett's esophagus is a disorder in which the lining of the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach) is damaged by stomach acid. Patients with Barrett's esophagus may develop more changes in the esophagus called dysplasia. When dysplasia is present, the risk of getting cancer of the esophagus increases.