My Life with Barrett’s Esophagus
Eight years ago, I was diagnosed with Barrett’s Esophagus, Barrett’s for short. I was suffering from a daily upset stomach, and thought I might have an ulcer. I also suffered from bouts of heartburn. One night, the heartburn was so terrific, I thought I would vomit. Of course, being stubborn, I just took more antacids. It was not unusual for me to eat, eight to ten antacids, or more, four to five days a week.
My family and friends, gave me advice on how to “fix” the problem. I tried eating a soft bland diet, drinking more milk, raising the head of my bed, and even, sitting up in my recliner to sleep. Nothing worked; in fact, the heartburn got worse. The last straw came, when I could not drink a glass of water, without getting extreme heartburn. I knew I had to stop being stubborn and get to the bottom of the problem.
The next day, I was telling our school secretary about the heartburn, and my stomach discomfort. She told me about a wonderful gastroenterologist, her husband, Paul, was seeing for digestive issues. The more I listened, the more I wanted to learn about this doctor. So, after doing some research, and talking to my family doctor, I gave his practice a call and set up an appointment.
The first appointment was to meet with him, discuss the problem, and make a plan. He suggested an endoscopy to help with the diagnosis. Within a week, I walked through the doors of the Twin Rivers Endoscopy Center, quite anxious, but, determined to feel better. I was tired of not feeling well. I was tired of relying on antacids to stop the heartburn. I was tired from a lack of a good night’s rest.
Everyone was wonderful. They calmed my jitters. Soon I was ready to go into the procedure room. The doctor came in and held my hand, he asked me where I wanted to go in my dreams, I told him, I wanted to be with my students. That was the last thing I remembered, until I woke up in the recovery room.
The doctor discovered……..
The doctor discovered that I had a small hiatal hernia, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and three spots on my esophagus. He biopsied the spots. The doctor told me it could possibly be Barrett’s. I would have to wait seven to ten days for the biopsy report. He sent me home with a prescription for Pantoprazole which I take daily. ( This medicine, helps to block the acid from getting to the esophagus)
The news I did not want to hear………..
Eight days after my procedure, I received a phone call, that I indeed, had Barrett’s. My heart sank. Barrett’s is a precancerous condition. Cancer was pretty prevalent on my mother’s side of the family. I must admit, it was a little unnerving. But it also made me more determine to learn all I could about this condition. Another visit to the doctor’s to learn what I had to do to help myself. I left with oodles of information and encouragement from the nurses. As I walked out the door, I made a decision, that I would not be defeated by Barrett’s
Barrett’s Esophagus happens when there is a change in the lining of the esophagus very near the stomach. Acid reflux ( GERD) is the reason for the change. Although Barrett’s is a precancerous condition, it is not cancer. However, if left unattended, it could possibly lead to cancer at some point.
Acid Reflux Symptoms…..
Heartburn, a sour taste in your mouth, and belching ( for me it was a lot of belching!) These symptoms get worse after eating, lying down, and believe it or not, bending over.
Causes of GERD……….
When the muscle that prevents the opening between the stomach and the esophagus weakens. The weakening of the muscle can be caused by some medications, food, other medical issues like a hiatal hernia, smoking, and weight problems.
My Barrett’s was found while looking for another suspected health issue. In most cases, that is how it is discovered and diagnosed.
Then and now…….
After the diagnosis of Barrett’s, I knew that I would need to change my lifestyle; and that I did. I never smoked; a plus for me. However, I must stay away from those who do smoke. Smoke could irritate the lining of the esophagus. Changing my diet and losing weight has helped with my Barrett’s. I have lost thirty six pounds to date. Avoiding foods that cause GERD is important such as high- fat foods and chocolate ( yes, I said chocolate) along with alcohol. I must say, I still eat chocolate occasionally, and enjoy a glass of wine from time to time. Please find time to exercise. It not only helps with any stress you might have, but will also help with GERD symptoms.
Never, Ever miss yearly appointments!
I have had nine endoscopies. Endoscopies are the only way the doctor can keep a check on your esophagus. Endoscopies do not hurt. So please, if you have been diagnosed with Barrett’s, always keep those endoscopy appointments.
My doctor’s name is Dr. Shanker Mukherjee. He is wonderful! Dr. Mukherjee has a very nice bedside manner. He always answers any questions I might have, and is never too busy to listen to me. I would highly recommend him if you are having any stomach or digestive issues.
My heartfelt feelings…….
Dear readers, I had my ninth endoscopy on December 28, 2015. Seven days later, I received my call. The biopsy revealed no knew spots and no change on the three spots that reside on my esophagus. “No Change” is the answer, I wait for.
Since being diagnosed, my faith has deepened and I am very grateful for everyday, every month and every year I have. Each morning starts with a prayer and being thankful for the little things in life. Each night ends the same way. Please if you have any of the GERD symptoms, see your doctor. Please be proactive with your health. Life is precious, live it to the fullest!