My twin brother Aaron Skahill has been fighting cancer since early June 2019. Aaron will need help paying medical and other care-related bills beyond his insurance coverage and other costs associated with what will be a long-term recovery after having his world turned upside down.
Aaron had been having trouble eating for months but initially thought it was a bad case of acid reflux. With a scuba trip to Mexico planned, he decided to go to the doctor to ensure he would be able to eat tacos on the beach. He was told that he was severely anemic and likely had cancer. This was on his 25th birthday and he spent it getting the first of many blood transfusions. He was shortly thereafter diagnosed with stage three gastroesophageal adenocarcinoma. The tumor was so large that it had nearly closed off Aaron’s esophagus which made eating food impossible for him. He was hospitalized in June when he was first diagnosed and weighed only 112 pounds at the time he left the hospital. He had to have a feeding tube put into his intestine so he could gain weight and build up his strength as he started 8 rounds of intense chemotherapy. The hope was that chemo would shrink the tumor and make it possible to remove it surgically, and that he might regain the ability to eat food. Aaron underwent an extremely intense chemo regimen called FLOT. Many people, we learned, are unable to complete it. There were many side effects, some of them well known such as hair loss and nausea, but others that we didn’t know about such as bone pain, bleeding and bruising, and severe headaches. Aaron did it through 4 months, having to be hospitalized briefly three additional times during and shortly after completing chemotherapy.
When Aaron first was diagnosed he was unable to continue working his two jobs and had to move in with our aunt and uncle. We were lucky to have family support to remain in the Boston area to receive great care at Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center, which oversaw the initial stages and all chemotherapy, which he finished on October 9th. We are very grateful for the care and concern provided by this oncology team. When he was first diagnosed the doctors were not sure if surgery would ever be an option. Many of the doctors consulted continued to stress how complicated Aaron’s situation was due to numerous factors. Surgery was never a guarantee. Aaron had to wait through three PET scans to see if there was enough progress through chemo to be a good candidate. Thankfully he was responsive to the chemotherapy and the doctors cleared him for surgery after his most recent PET scan in late October. The surgery will be removing most of his stomach (not sure yet how much or all) and part of the esophagus to make sure all of the tumor is gone and a good margin exists to try to avoid a recurrence. Lymph nodes around the tumor also show signs of cancer and these will also be removed.
This is a life changing illness and surgery. He will never eat the same way and learning this will take some time. Aaron will be having the surgery done December 6th. The surgery is complex, just as the other doctors told us it would be at the beginning. He will have both his abdomen and chest opened but the surgeon believes this is the right course to ensure the best chance for a good outcome. Recuperation from this procedure can last up to 12 weeks for the physical recovery and then he will need some time to get back on his feet as he adjusts to life without most or all of his stomach, dealing with both the physical repercussions and the emotional toll, and figuring out how and where to live. In June he will turn 26 and lose his current health insurance which is a big concern.
Aaron was living in Boston, had two jobs, an apartment with a roommate, and his dog Flama by his side before all this. He now is starting over, Flama (his dog) is still with him, and he is hopeful that he kicked cancer’s ass once and for all.