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A difficult surgery made easier: Rick's story

  • For Rick Meyer, life is busy and satisfying. The 53-year-old father of two enjoys his work as a tire wholesaler. He's also a power parachute enthusiast who often flies his ultralight aircraft near his hobby farm in Loretto, Minnesota.

    But after a week of hunting in October 2006, Meyer was inexplicably exhausted and sought help from his doctor.

    After tests at Virginia Piper Cancer Institute® - Abbott Northwestern Hospital, he learned he had esophageal cancer.

    "I was plenty scared, but I felt better once I knew we had a plan," says Meyer.

    Esophageal cancer

    "Esophageal cancer is an uncommon but intense disease," says Daniel Dunn, MD, medical director of Virginia Piper Cancer Institute®'s Esophageal and Gastric Cancer Program. "It often requires aggressive treatment that must be coordinated among many medical specialists, as well as rehabilitation and nutrition experts."

    At Virginia Piper Cancer Institute®, the esophageal cancer team uses current clinical research and works to improve treatments. That affected Meyer's care in important ways. For example, he was one of the first patients in Minnesota to have a robot-assisted esophagectomy (surgery to remove cancer from the esophagus).

    Robot-assisted surgery

    Surgeons at Abbott Northwestern Hospital use the da Vinci® robot-assisted surgical system as a treatment option for esophageal cancer. Robot-assisted surgery offers close-up real-time images and the ability to move the instruments in very tight areas. That means fewer and smaller incisions, which can reduce pain and trauma to surrounding tissues.

    A cancer-free outlook

    As Meyer recovered from surgery, the staff at Virginia Piper Cancer Institute® helped him modify his diet and prepare for chemotherapy. He also attended a support group.

    Today, Meyer is cancer-free, and doctors remain hopeful about his prognosis.

    "I'm just very lucky," he says.

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  • Source: Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Healthy Communities Magazine, winter 2008
    Reviewed by: Timothy Sielaff, MD, PhD, FACS, president, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute®
    First published: 08/17/2009
    Last reviewed: 08/17/2009

  • Rick Meyer stands next to his aircraft