Richard Johnson

Esophageal Cancer Patient Stories

Richard Johnson

After recovering from esophageal cancer, Rich Johnson returned to one of his favorite spots - the golf course.

Almost everyone faces challenges in his or her lifetime. For Rich Johnson, his life-altering challenge was a shocking diagnosis of esophageal cancer in May 2008. He was 50 years old. His immediate thoughts were to find out what treatment was available; which cancer centers offered leading treatment; and where he could find the country's top cancer specialists.

"All roads led us to Fox Chase!"

Rich's wife, Pat, worked as a nurse at Fox Chase Cancer Center early in her nursing career. "She experienced first-hand the exceptional care and treatment offered at Fox Chase," said Rich. "Along with local physicians, personal recommendations and research, all roads led us to Fox Chase!"

Fox Chase specialists offered Rich several treatment options ranging from traditional to innovative care, including a brand new surgical procedure to consider. After agonizing over the cancer diagnosis, Rich and Pat had to decide which approach would be most effective to fight this aggressive disease.

Together with their physicians, the Johnsons chose a course of treatment involving chemotherapy and radiation to shrink the tumor, which, if successful, would be followed by surgery. Pat shared, "We were so pleased to meet Rich's medical oncologist, Dr. Barbara Burtness, who is exceptional." The first phase of treatment was successful and Rich was ready for surgery.

Richard Johnson family

Rich with his wife, Pat, and their daughter, Tori.

His thoracic surgeon, Walter J. Scott, MD, FACS, who is a pioneer in the use of laparoscopic surgery, performed this procedure using tiny insertions into the chest cavity. This technique causes minimal trauma and less bleeding and typically results in a speedy recovery.

"The staff at Fox Chase is amazing."

Rich is extremely grateful to the remarkable doctors at Fox Chase who gave him a second chance - and changed his destiny. Rich is now a believer in hope and trust.

During this innovative surgery, Dr. Scott successfully removed all of the cancer that was visible and believed it had not spread to the lymph nodes. As Rich's family celebrated the successful surgery, they did not realize that the most difficult challenges would lie ahead.

Rich could not eat normally - a temporary side effect of surgery.

The major challenge for Rich was that he could not eat normally, but instead had to use a feeding device. The device supplied Rich with his required nutrition, but left him immobile and home-bound. Rich was given a portable feeding backpack that was helpful for mobility, but was cumbersome, difficult to use and very noticeable. That made him self-conscious.

Johnson and son

Rich enjoys golfing with his son, Keith, who helped his parents market the nutrition bag.

Before his cancer diagnosis, Rich was an active adult who enjoyed golf, fishing, soccer and carpentry. The restrictions on his physical activity affected Rich emotionally and physically. He tried to play golf with the portable feeding device, but was frustrated with its limitations on his mobility. As Pat watched her husband struggle with depression, she uncovered a major obstacle in his recovery.

Pat created a solution for her husband - a portable feeding device carrier.

Pat wanted to help her husband become more mobile, while he could still recieve the vital nutrition he needed for proper recovery. One night while Rich slept, Pat took out her sewing machine and created a more compact and subtle bag for the feeding device. When Rich woke up, Pat showed him the bag. His entire mood changed.

Pat's creation accelerated Rich's recovery.

"I no longer felt like I was stuck at home," recalled Rich. This new mobility accelerated Rich's return to a normal lifestyle and improved his emotional outlook.

Rich wore his new bag to his next appointment at Fox Chase. His physicians were impressed with the invention. They asked if Pat could produce for other patients dealing with the same issues.

Johnson Pack

Johnson developed this nutrition pack, which is now marketed through a website, NUTRA2GO.com.

A family business, Nutra2Go, was born - and sales will help fund cancer research.

"Their encouragement gave Pat and me the inspiration to improve on the current bag and build a family business called Nutra2Go" shared Rich. The company's mission is to improve the quality of life for patients requiring the help of an external feeding device. The Johnsons also wanted to give back to Fox Chase - and help find a cure for esophageal cancer. They have made the committment to donate a portion of the proceeds of each bag sold to esophageal cancer research at Fox Chase.

Johnson Pack

Rich Johnson sports the new nutrition pack.

"We are so happy we made the decision to go to Fox Chase."

Since the treatment, Rich has resumed his career working for Public Service Electric and Gas as a trouble shooter. He and Pat strongly believe that every experience in life opens a new chapter. Through their experience at Fox Chase, the Johnsons have made many friends, memories and are building a new family-operated business. "We are so happy we made the decision to go to Fox Chase - the staff is exceptional. Look where we are today!