Esophageal Cancer Surgery Gives New Grandfather a Second Chance

When a case of GERD escalated to esophageal cancer, John Wagner sought Dr. Raja Flores for treatment. Now he’s hoping his story helps someone else

Do you believe in the law of attraction? Let me explain… I thought I was a healthy, fit, 58 year old male with some acid reflux.  I used to consume a lot of Rolaids or Tums, trying to ease the acid.  This worked for many years until the summer of 2010.  I was having trouble swallowing food and therefore began eating less.  Weight started to fall off of me.  I set up an appointment with a gastro doctor and had an endoscopy.  I could not believe my ears when he told me I had esophageal cancer, stage 3.  Adenocarcinoma is a rare type of cancer, caused by GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease).

Panic now sets in; tests, scans, and the task of finding a surgeon, oncologist, and radiologist. Now is when you rely on your family and friends to begin doing research, in order to find the best doctors possible.  My internist told me that I would know when I had found the right doctors.  The mission begins…

The surgeon!  After meeting with two surgeons, and both explaining I would need a feeding tube, chemotherapy and radiation prior to surgery, I was not feeling very positive.  They continued to tell me how I should prepare myself for a long haul, I pretty much had myself dead and buried.  Surgeon number three was recommended by several people in the medical field.  His name: Dr. Raja Flores, Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Mount Sinai in New York.

Life-changing Consultation with Dr. Flores at Mount Sinai

Our consultation was life changing; I was nervous and afraid, but Dr. Flores walked in, pulled up a chair right next to me and holding my arm he told me not to worry.  He reassured me by saying, "Yes your cancer is serious, but you will be fine."  He then turned to my wife and told her she was a strong woman and he asked about our children.  What doctor have you ever met that actually took the time to ask about your family?  Surgeon’s one and two, sat across the room from me like I had a contagious disease; Dr. Flores never left my side.  

I felt a connection to him especially when he told me that he would care for me as if I were part of his family.  Dr. Flores told me I was in great shape, no feeding tube was necessary.  Chemotherapy and radiation would be difficult but that I was strong and would get through it.  He was sure the surgery would go well.  This is where the law of attraction comes into play.  There was just something different about this man, something different about this human being.  Before he left the room he shook my hand and wished us luck with whomever we chose to do my surgery.  He then turned to my wife and said, "One day a patient gave me a photocopy of a surgeon performing surgery and behind the surgeon were the hand of a higher power."  My wife being very religious turned and told Dr. Flores that he would be my surgeon. For her, a doctor that did not think he was God and believed in the higher power was rare.  Dr. Flores hugged us and as he left the room and God blessed us.  Surgeon number one in our eyes was Dr. Flores.

Compassionate Care, Successful Surgery, and Remarkable Recovery  

On November 1, 2010, chemo and radiation began.  I was sick from both.  I was unable to eat and needed to be hydrated every few days.  I lost 70 pounds.  On December 16, I finished my treatments and needed to get strong for my surgery.  January 2010 was my surgery to remove most of my esophagus.  Dr. Flores went to my family to discuss the surgery.  My wife was upset my daughters were with her and my son had just gone to the restroom.  Dr. Flores told them I was fine, and the surgery went well.  My wife told him that my son was going to be upset that he missed him.  Dr. Flores put his hand on her arm and told her not to worry that he would wait for him.  Again, this speaks volumes of Dr. Flores; his compassion, character, and caring of my family during such a traumatic time.  The surgery went textbook and my recovery was remarkable.  Dr. Flores was in to see me each and every day including weekends and sometimes twice a day.  Eight days after surgery, I was on my way home.  

My wife, children and grandson is what has motivated me to get through this ordeal and helped with my recovery.  Both my daughters became pregnant during my chemo and radiation treatments to keep me fighting.  I now have two grandsons and a granddaughter.  Life is good, my family is my life.  God had given me this second chance.  I hope my story helps someone else.  

Not only was my life in the hand of that greater power above but it was also being treated by the hands of one of the finest surgeons.  Dr. Flores is an exceptional surgeon as well as an exceptional human being who has been given the gift of compassion, he is so humble.  Words are simply inadequate and my family and I will be ever so grateful to have found Dr. Flores, he has truly blessed us.  

John Wagner