Writing letters to strangers helped me manage my fears about my dad’s esophageal cancer treatment

It was December 2018 when my family knew something was seriously wrong with my dad. An otherwise healthy 54-year-old man and avid tennis player was sitting in front of us, barely touching his dinner. The holiday season came and went, but his struggle to keep food down did not. Only a few weeks later, I received that unimaginable phone call: my dad had been diagnosed with stage III esophageal cancer. What led us to MD Anderson for esophageal cancer treatment It’s difficult to describe how it feels when a loved one has cancer. There’s an ever-present heaviness that makes it hard to breathe. I desperately longed for the world we’d inhabited before my dad’s diagnosis — a reality that was starting to feel eerily distant. Dad’s local physicians told him that the size and location of his tumor meant he’d need more specialized care than they could provide. And after doing a little research, it became clear to all of us that MD Anderson was the best choice. Once my dad decided to seek treatment there, things started moving quickly. Within 48 hours, my parents were packing their bags in preparation for a flight from Atlanta to Houston. Taking action to manage my fears about esophageal cancer It was during this time that I sat down with some notebook paper and started writing letters. I wrote to the medical oncology team, the radiation oncology team and the surgery team that would be assigned to my father. I wanted my dad’s caregivers to have a glimpse of who he was and how much he meant to our family. I also...