Phillip Stutts

I made a decision: take control of this disease. I wasn’t going to let it take control of me anymore.

In August 2016, I headed to the Mayo Clinic for a one year check-up on my latest esophageal surgery (to treat my Achalasia disease). This latest surgery, called a Heller Myotomy with Fundoplication (completed in 2015) was invasive — even today my stomach looks like I’ve been in a knife fight with five incision scars.

This was my third surgery to-date — the two previous surgeries (completed at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore) had failed and the doctors told me that no one has ever failed two surgeries before. I often wonder if I should have won an award for such a dubious honor.

But this third surgery in 2015 at Mayo had to be done because my non-working esophagus had actually curved like a banana. Food was not emptying into my stomach and, in addition to the discomfort, it was fermenting and eroding my esophagus. According to my doctors, they had to straighten it out or I was on a slippery slope to esophageal cancer. Thus, I elected to have my third major surgery in 26 months. The dread was palpable, but I had no choice. I just wanted to get it over with and thrive again.

During this third surgery, the surgeon actually cut my stomach and wrapped it around my esophagus so it would stay straight and stable. I ended up losing part of my stomach and for a skinny guy like me, it was an interesting outcome. To this day my appetite is about half of what it used to be and my wife jokes that she is willing to have this surgery one day as well.

I share all of this background to state that my 2016 one year check-up at the Mayo Clinic was an awakening moment for me…

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