Florida Man Travels to New Jersey for Advanced Esophageal Cancer Treatment
August 31, 2022
In March 2019, Richard Allen was eating a meal when he took a swallow that would change his life. Instead of smoothly moving down his esophagus to his stomach, the food seemed to stall. “It's not like you're choking, but there's this uncomfortable feeling that it just isn't quite getting down,” he says.
When the same thing happened again about a week later, Richard—a self-described “health nut”—didn’t waste any time getting an appointment to see a doctor in his hometown of Gainesville, Florida. The news was a surprise: esophageal cancer. He had no family history of esophageal cancer, but, as he found out, he had two risk factors: a hiatal hernia and asymptomatic gastric reflux.
Richard, the creator of multiple medical technology companies and cofounder of a nonprofit organization that provides support to rural Cambodian villages, researched some of the leading cancer treatment centers in the United States. He learned that the treatment standard—and his best option at success—was to have chemotherapy followed by radiation, then an esophagectomy, a surgery that partially or totally removes the esophagus and pulls the stomach up to replace the removed esophagus.
Richard wanted to avoid the surgery if at all possible, but agreed to undergo the chemotherapy and proton radiation therapy and pursue other therapies, such as immunotherapy, in the hopes that surgery wouldn’t be needed.
Unfortunately, after chemotherapy and proton therapy, a cancerous nodule appeared. It looked like the surgery would be unavoidable.
The Search for the Best Possible Care
If he had to have the surgery, Richard said, “I wanted to have the very best person I could get.”
Adds Dr. Bauer: “Richard used his connections to identify, in his mind, what he felt was the best place to come next. When he needed the next level of care, he came to Jersey Shore.”
A hallmark of the care provided at Jersey Shore’s cancer center, is having multidisciplinary teams collaborating for each patient. “We have active, real-time collaboration,” says radiation oncologist Douglas Miller, M.D. Dr. Miller became involved in Richard’s case when Dr. Bauer reached out to him to find out if there might be another option that would allow Richard to avoid surgery.
Dr. Miller evaluated Richard’s medical records and concluded that because Richard’s recurrence was small, he was a good candidate for brachytherapy, a targeted internal radiation treatment. “This brachytherapy treatment was an attempt to avoid surgery by still giving him a meaningful chance at controlling his cancer,” Dr. Miller says.
Richard traveled from his Florida home to Jersey Shore for the brachytherapy, which was successful. However, nine months later, a follow-up endoscopy found new early stage cancer cells. Luckily, despite the extensive internal scarring from his many intense treatments, he was still a good candidate for a robot-assisted esophagectomy.
In October 2021, Richard returned to Jersey Shore where Dr. Bauer performed a minimally invasive robot-assisted surgery. He was in the hospital for a week and back home in Florida a few weeks later, adjusting to having to eat smaller, more frequent meals, but feeling upbeat about his prognosis and his experience at Jersey Shore.
“It was just an amazing experience,” he says. “From the folks that check you in to the nurses and technicians that work directly with Dr. Miller and Dr. Bauer. Everybody cares for you like family. We've been to a lot of places, and it is not like that everywhere.”
Next Steps & Resources:
- Meet our sources: Thomas Bauer, M.D., and Douglas Miller, M.D.
- To make an appointment with a doctor near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.
- Learn more about robot-assisted surgery available at Hackensack Meridian Health
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.
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