TAMPA - Since I was a little girl, I remember getting stomach aches when something was wrong, internalizing my stress at a very young age. As I grew up, my stress increased and so did my acid reflux.
Over the years my condition progressed from gastritis, inflammation of the stomach lining to GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease. GERD occurs when acid comes up from the stomach into the esophagus and causes damage.
And even though I've been on proton-pump inhibitors for years, I still experience pain daily and there's a good reason for it, according to Dr. Alex Rosemurgy, the Director of Florida Hospital Tampa's Surgical Digestive Disorders and GERD Center.
"It doesn't stop reflux. It doesn't stop acid production all day long, just part of the day. So people still reflux. They still have acid and when they do suppress the acid, it's a potent carcinogen that refluxes up into the esophagus, bile acids," explained Dr. Rosemurgy.
Dr. Rosemurgy says that toxic exposure day after day can lead to esophageal cancer. And he stressed that proton-pump inhibitors are not meant to be taken long term, as they can cause serious health issues and interfere with other medications. Even the FDA does not recommend taking PPI's for more than a few weeks.
"Prolonged use of proton-pump inhibitors rapidly accelerates osteoporosis in post menopausal women and it excels osteoporosis in men over age 50. It interferes with other medications, like Plavix. PPI's may also cause low serum magnesium levels. So there are real consequences. So why is it so available? The FDA doesn't make it that available for an extended period of time. It's just misused!" he said.
An upper GI test showed I have another problem.
"The dynamic study of the upper GI showed that you have both acid reflux and you had a small hiatal hernia," said Dr. Sherona Ross, Florida Hospital's Surgical Endoscopy Director.
After discovering my hiatal hernia, Dr. Ross performed my endoscopy. And not only was my esophagus damaged, the valve or sphincter that's supposed to close tightly after food passes through no longer works properly.
"You have no valve," Dr Ross explained, as she showed me how abnormal my valve looked compared to a healthy one.
And she explained that since it's a mechanical issue, my esophagus lining will continue to deteriorate, possibly developing past a pre-cancerous stage.
"You have to stop the whole process from having the esophagitis or just acid reflux with heartburn more than twice a week to progress into full blown cancer," Dr. Ross said.
So I'm having a surgery called Nissen Fundoplication.
"We're going to build a new valve mechanism for you. We reach behind your esophagus and we grab some of the back of your stomach. We bring it around and then we sew the front of the stomach to the esophagus to the back of your stomach in such a way that we create a valve mechanism," explained Dr. Rosemurgy.
Like any surgery, there are risks. But the risk of esophageal cancer decreases immensely, if my acid reflux stops.
So I asked that very question.
"Will my acid reflux stop?" I asked Dr. Rosemurgy.
"When we do that valve mechanism, it should be like turning off the lights. It is over," he said emphatically.
And boy, do I hope he's right!
A PERSONAL NOTE from Wendy Ryan:
Recovering from stomach surgery like this can be challenging. I have to be on liquids for a couple of weeks and then slowly introduce soft foods back into my diet over the next 2 months. I'm hoping to be off for just two weeks, but it might be more like four to six weeks. I just have to wait and see.
I will post updates on how I'm doing after surgery and while I'm out on leave recovering on my ABC Action News Facebook Fan Page. Just go to: https://www.facebook.com/WendyRyanWFTS
And you can also follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/anchorwendyryan