Charlotte Kirsch enjoyed a full, active life with her family and kept busy working in a retail position. With her grandson nearby, she was often spending time with him. Charlotte had never smoked, and although she had high blood pressure, she was otherwise healthy.
She suddenly became ill and was vomiting for days on end. When she wasn’t getting better, Charlotte’s doctor referred her for some imaging tests, which lead to a biopsy of her esophagus. The biopsy confirmed that she had esophageal cancer, which came as a shock to Charlotte and her family. Next, she met with an oncologist and was treated for six weeks with chemotherapy and radiation.
Her oncologist then referred her to surgeon Dr. Christopher DuCoin, because he specializes in minimally invasive and robotic esophageal surgery at Tulane Medical Center.
“I had no family history of cancer, so didn’t have any experiences to rely on,” Charlotte said. Some friends also referred her to Dr. DuCoin, and Charlotte is glad she took their advice.
Charlotte was uneasy before having esophagus surgery to remove the cancer. She remembers, “I was a wreck, but Dr. DuCoin and his team calmed me and explained everything at my level. They made it easy for me and answered all my questions.”
Dr. DuCoin performed an Ivor Lewis esophagectomy to remove the cancerous tumors through small incisions in the abdomen and chest wall. He was able to use a minimally invasive approach to provide Charlotte with less pain and a quicker return to her normal daily activities.
The surgeons at Tulane Medical Center specialize in using minimally invasive or laparoscopic techniques and a robotic surgical system to better care for patients. They have pioneered minimally invasive procedures for more than two decades. These surgery techniques can replace large-incision surgeries (open surgery) for less pain, smaller scars, minimal blood loss, shorter hospital stays and faster recovery time.
While Charlotte continues to recover, she feels ready physically and mentally to return to work. “My grandson and I are back to enjoying time together, and that’s important to me,” she said.
After surviving this surprising cancer diagnosis and challenging surgery, Charlotte has advice for others. “I don’t take it lightly anymore if people say they have heartburn or indigestion,” she said. “That can lead to esophageal cancer. Follow your body’s signs and pay attention to what’s not normal.”
Charlotte is incredibly grateful to Dr. DuCoin and her care team at Tulane. “Dr. DuCoin helped put me and my family at ease, and we’re forever grateful,” she said. “I’m his biggest cheerleader. He saved my life so I say his name everywhere and am happy to refer people to him so he can help others.”