In Memory of Brent Sharpless
In Memory of Brent Sharpless
The State of Missouri recognized April 2012 as Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month in honor of Brent Sharpless, a 37-yr-old athlete who lost his battle last year. Brent's wish was to prevent others from developing this deadly disease; please be proactive!
April is Esophageal Cancer awareness month and most people don't realize that it is the FASTEST growing cancer in the United States. Our country loses someone every 36 minutes to it because most people are diagnosed at an advanced stage. Esophageal Cancer is similar to Colon Cancer in that there is a simple procedure that can detect precancerous cells, but if not caught early it has a mortality rate similar to pancreatic cancer.
We have the power to change these statistics because in many cases Esophageal Cancer is preventable and with early detection it has over a 90% cure rate.
Brent Sharpless was diagnosed with Stage IV Esophageal Cancer that had already metastasized to his liver in May of 2010. Like many Americans, he thought that persistent heartburn and acid reflux were simply an inconvenience. Five years prior to his diagnosis, Brent's doctor prescribed medication (PPIs), which he stopped taking two years before he was diagnosed because he was asymptomatic. He didn't have an endoscopy until he had trouble swallowing which is usually the first symptom of this silent killer.
At the time of his diagnosis, Brent was in the prime of his life. He was a very active and healthy 36-year-old who had never smoked, ran a marathon with an average mile pace of under 7:30, and he had just summited Mt. Rainier. Brent also lived on three continents; backpacked multiple times through Europe, Asia, and Australia; and was appointed VP of his company in his early 30s.
Throughout his treatment, Brent fought hard and endured 25 radiation treatments, 10 different types of chemotherapy, 1 biological drug, 1 experimental drug, along with a few small surgeries. Even in the midst of treatment, Brent inspired those around him by riding his bike to almost all of his radiation treatments and many chemo treatments, biking 25 miles to raise money for cancer research, and completing a mile swim in a relay triathlon. Sadly, even all of that determination wasn't enough; Brent passed away 14 months after his diagnosis.
We will never know what would've happened if Brent had the endoscope, but his hope was that his story would save others from having to endure the unimaginable pain that he went through. You may think that this couldn't happen to you, but no one ever thought that it could happen to Brent. The only way to be positive is to be proactive. If you or a loved one have persistent heartburn or acid reflux please go to your doctor and make sure that you get an endoscopy. It could save your life.