» About Dale Swift

About Dale Swift

Our story starts in 2007.

Dale had problems with hiccups and swallowing for about three months. We were planning our 50th high school class reunion (we graduated together), and Dale decided to wait until it was over to go to the doctor. His appointment was May 16 with Dr. Schoon, who scheduled a colonoscopy and gastroscopy. I was waiting for him in the visitor room thinking Dale’s prognosis would be acid reflux. The doctor came out and told me he was sure Dale had cancer of the esophagus – that took my breath away! The nurse called our son Steven, who notified our other son Michael and daughter Susan. They came immediately to the hospital. We also have another daughter – Wendi – I better mention her or she will get mad!

The nurse then made the necessary appointments with the Oncologist, and scheduled a CAT Scan for June 1, 2007.

After the CAT Scan, we went to see the Oncologist – Dr. Matthew Hill. We liked him instantly. At that time he said only the esophagus and lymph nodes near the tumor were affected. He said we could expect chemo, radiation, and perhaps surgery along with a feeding tube. He said the cancer was treatable, but not curable. I am a nurse and the thoughts of all this were overwhelming.

June 6, a PET Scan was done. We were told by our Radiation Oncologist there were three spots on Dale’s liver. At that time we wondered why PET Scans are not done first before CAT Scans?

June 13, we had a meeting with Dale’s Radiologist, Dr. Philip Colletier, who has since become a very good family friend – we think he is the best. He told us radiation for Dale would be on the esophagus; and chemo for the liver lesions (Dale prefers the word ‘lesions’ over ‘tumors’). Dale was then tatooed for radiation.

June 20, was our first day of treatment. We decided we must have positive thoughts and for Dale to stay as busy and active as possible. We own an auto salvage business and Dale continued working throughout most of his treatments. Dale had 30 subsequent radiation treatments.

June 25, an infusion port was inserted for chemo.

June 26, chemo started. Dale sat for 4 hours after which he was hooked up with 5FU for 96 hours. He carried it with him. He took EMEND, an anti-nausea drug and he was never sick. However carrying the bag was a pain in the neck. He figured out how to shower and sleep with the bag on. Our family encouraged Dale every day. While still carrying the bag, the family convinced Dale to travel to Newton, Iowa (about 45 minutes from our home) to watch our son drive a race car. After watching our son, we drove back to the hospital to have the infusion pulled. After this was done, Dale felt good enough to go downtown to Des Moines’ Art in the Park. But we had done too much and Dale was exhausted. In the future we decided we needed to slow down a bit – after all he has cancer!

July 1, our 47th wedding anniversary. The affects of the chemo treatments finally caught up with Dale. He was tired, weak, clammy, and had lost his appetite. Much of July during radiation, I usually drove him – he was just too weak. We realized Dale needed more rest than what he was getting – we will slow down – promise!

July 6, the day of radiation, we saw Dr. Hill (our Oncologist). Dale had lost 20 pounds and was so weak. He was admitted to the hospital and was given IV’s for dehydration and low potassium. He was in the hospital for 3 days. He began to feel better and started eating and gaining weight.

We have a home at the Lake of the Ozarks and we continued to travel there (about 5.5 hours) between radiation and chemo. This is Dale’s favorite place to be.

July 26, chemo again (here we go). Cesplation and 5 FU. It seems like after all of Dale’s chemo treatments he gets weak, dizzy and crabby! After IV fluids, he feels great. He takes EMEND before chemo and has not been nauseated or sick.

August 1, Dale’s last radiation. He had another 3 day hospital stay for IV fluids. The night he came home, we went to a wedding and then a street dance. I am sure you are wondering if I ever let the man rest!

Dale continued working – some days only a half day. The middle of August I drug him to the Iowa State Fair – a family tradition – Iowa has one of the best Fairs in the United States.

August 23, Dr. Hill found a blood clot in Dale’s leg – so it was back in the hospital for 2 days.

September 4, Dale’s PET Scan shows no more lesions in the esophagus or lymph nodes. They are gone. We celebrated with a pizza party at one of our favorite restaurants.

December 4, PET Scan shows small lesions in the liver. Dale will start chemo again – Cesplatin and 5 FU.

December 21, Dale was sleeping at home with a 5 FU infusion going – he had our miniature Schnauzer – Lilly – on his lap. When Dale woke up and later stood up – the IV fluids didn’t come with him. Lilly had chewed the tube. We jumped in the car and went to the hospital. The IV was discontinued. The hospital staff determined he had most of it. Now the nurses remember Dale as the guy whose dog ate through his IV tube!

We have been to the hospital and doctors so often the past 2 1/2 years that we are on first name basis with almost everyone.

Christmas 2007 Dale was tired and had sores in his mouth. He tried to relieve the pain of the sores with gargling and rinsing his mouth for about a week. Dale felt great on News Years.

January 14, 2008, chemo again – Cisplatin and 5 FU. This is Dale’s fourth treatment. He is feeling good with no mouth sores – it seems like Dale reacts differently with each treatment.

February 15, another chemo round. This time the mouth sores were really bad. He never did find a satisfying treatment with either rinsing or with Orajel.

March, Dale had a headache and unsteady gait, and feeling forgetful. We notified the doctor and they scheduled a MRI. They discovered Dale’s hemoglobin was extremely low and after 2 units of blood he felt much better.

Another round of chemo – number 6. Dale is halfway through. He gets tired and has no appetite. He has never been sick or nauseated – he always takes EMEND – it’s a great pill!

April 22, another PET Scan – more time for worrying. That darn spot on the liver remains. Different options – more chemo and a trip to Iowa City and study group participation.

April 28, round 7 of chemo. Dale continues to work and goes to car auctions. He gets tired and the mouth sores cause much pain.

May 7 & 8, dehydration and low hemoglobin again. IV fluids with 2 units of blood. After round 7 of chemo – the mouth sores worsen.

May 18, we went out to eat and Dale downed two beers. The mouth sores are better and his appetite is good. No doctors until June 20 – yea!

Dale has had a mustache and beard for 40 years – half of the mustache is gone. Our grandson called him half-stash. His barber friend shaved off the beard – hard to get used to him clean shaven!

The chemo eats up the red cells. Dale needs 2 more units of blood.

June 23, July 7-8, chemo – same as before.

July 9, off to the University of Iowa hospital in Iowa City for their thoughts. The doctor was very impressed by how healthy Dale looked. Dale told the doctor he has tingling in his fingers and toes. It was determined he has Neuropathy – nothing seems to help. Our doctor in Iowa City thinks Dale should have a different type of chemo. We will wait until after the next PET Scan.

July 29, PET Scan results – lesions are larger with a small lesion on his liver. The rest of the PET Scan was clear.

August 5, chemo for 4 hours. Dale is on a new chemo – Taxol. No mouth sores this time.

August 7, the doctor recommends CyberKnife procedure on the tumor and we begin prep work. CyberKnife treatment is a non-invasive alternative to surgery for the treatment of tumors. To prep for this procedure, gold fiducial markers are put around the tumor in the liver.

August 25, 2 more units of blood – low hemoglobin again.

September 3, Dale begins the CyberKnife procedure which was done by our favorite Radiology Oncologist – Dr. Colletier. The CyberKnife Systems computer controlled robot slowly moved around Dale to the various locations from which it delivered radiation to his tumors. Dale had to lie flat on his back during the treatment. This procedure was done over a period of 3 days. The first day the procedure lasted for 6 1/2 hours. Days 2 & 3, the procedure was the same and lasted for 4 1/2 hours each day. He had no side effects – only a back ache from lying on the table.

September 11, chemo again for 6 hours. Dale is tired from this treatment, and has 2 more units of blood.

October 10, another 6 hours of chemo.

October 22, another PET Scan. The CyberKnife procedure was successful with only one small tumor left on the liver. We will visit with the doctors about Dale’s options.

November 1, 2 more units of blood platelets and no chemo until next week.

November 20, chemo today – could be the last time. Dale’s bone marrow was good – let’s keep it that way!

We have no doctor appointments or treatments until February 2009 – yea!

February 17. 2009, Pet Scan results – only one spot on the liver and no new ones.

February 24, consulting with the surgeon. Dr. Kollmorgan told us that Dale “Beat the odds.” He also told us that surgery on the liver to remove the remaining tumor when the cancer on the liver is a result of esophageal cancer, typically isn’t successful.

April, we travel back to Iowa City to discuss SIR-Spheres microspheres procedure. Dr. Halfdanerson felt this was a procedure Dale should pursue. This procedure is an innovative means of treating liver cancer. In cases where it is not possible to surgically remove the liver tumors, SIR-Spheres microspheres can be used to deliver targeted, internal radiation therapy directly to the tumor. This therapy is called Selective Internal Radiation Therapy also known as SIRT. This technique uses millions of tiny polymer beads or microspheres which contain a radioactive elements. SIR-Spheres microspheres are very small, approximately 32 microns in size, and are about one-third the diameter of a strand of hair.

Medicare denied payment for the Spheres procedure. However, Suzanne (bless her heart) said she would help appeal. We told the doctor to proceed with the procedure.

May 14, travel to Iowa City for the pre-Spheres procedure. All went well, and the Spheres procedure will be done on May 27.

May 27 – the Spheres procedure is initiated. A small catheter was guided into Dale’s liver and the SIR-Spheres microspheres were infused through the catheter. The microspheres were carried by the bloodstream directly to the tumors in his liver where they lodged in the small vessels feeding the tumor and delivered their dose of radiation. SIR-Spheres microspheres selectively irradiate tumors and therefore have the ability to deliver more potent doses of radiation directly to the cancer cells over a longer period of time. This procedure was done on an outpatient basis. Dale had no side affects.

May 30, 2 year anniversary since discovering the cancer and Dale is feeling great after the Spheres procedure.

July 9, 2 more units of blood.

July 29, PET Scan shows the tumor is gone on the liver – the PET Scan is clear. We are so grateful to everyone – what a wonderful team.

September, shortness of breath – low hemoglobin again – 2 more units of blood.

October 20, CAT Scan

October 22, waiting for results of CAT Scan in Dr. Hill’s office – as always we worry as we wait for the results. Great news – Dr. Hill calls Dale the “Miracle Man!” No cancer – the CAT Scan is clear!

What a 2 /12 year ride. Dale was diagonosed Stage 4 esophageal cancer with metastisis to lymph node in the area of the esophageal tumor and 3 spots on his liver.

11 rounds of chemo – thousands of dollars
16 units of blood – more thousands
30 rounds of radiation – more dollars
CyberKnife and Spheres – thousands and thousands of dollars
As a result of the above – Dale is in remission – PRICELESS!!

We decided in 2007 when our journey started that we would have a jewelry party (our daughter sells a line of jewelry) and donate the proceeds to a cancer fund. Dr. Colletier said there are so many people going through cancer treatments who are having a hard time paying for medical treatments and incidentals (wigs, gas money, traveling expenses, etc.). We started raising money for these folks who needed assistance – calling it ‘Dale’s Slush Fund’. Dr. Colletier is in charge of the funds and it is up to him to determine the recipients. Over the past 2 1/2 years we have been able to donate around $10,000.

A big thanks to our children, grandchildren, family, friends, the auto recyclers, and the many people that prayed for Dale!

Remember you can’t fight cancer if you don’t have HOPE.

Dale and Gretchen Swift


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