Posted 1 year ago

Valley man raising esophageal cancer awareness after partner dies from disease

April is Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month and a Valley man wants to spread the message of early detection after losing his partner last year to the disease after a late-stage diagnosis.

“He was a ray of sunshine.”

It was a brightness that shined from within, as shown in photos of Robert Spinner’s partner, Dave Bigott.

“He loved Arizona, the sunshine was everything,” Spinner said. “He loved gardening, loved cooking, was a good cook, and was just a great guy.”

Spinner says Bigott was active — a social guy who loved trips to Maui and around the world. But in late 2021, it all began to change.

“He had an issue with eating. The food got stuck. He had acid reflux off and on and thought, ‘I’ll take a Tums or whatever and I’ll be fine.’ And never thought he had anything. He was healthy. Never had to go to the doctor.”

But the diagnosis would turn out to be something much more serious. In early 2022, Bigott would learn he had Stage IV esophageal cancer. While researchers have made significant progress over the last few decades, it’s still incredibly difficult to diagnose.

“There really hasn’t been great screening techniques for esophageal cancer as there have been for other types of cancer, such as breast or colon,” explained Dr. Ian DeRoock, an oncologist with Ironwood Cancer & Research Centers. “I think it’s important to remember that although we do tend to diagnose this at later stages, our treatment of end stages has really progressed tremendously, even in my career here at Ironwood, such as that we are using chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted forms of treatments – so we all have optimism that year by year we are going to be doing better with our patients.”

According to the American Cancer Society, only about 20% of people with esophageal cancer survive at least five years after getting diagnosed.

Sadly, Bigott would not be one of them. In November 2022, less than a year after getting the devastating news, Bigott would lose his battle.

“I stood by his side…and held his hand til his last breath,” says Spinner.

Now Spinner is on a mission to raise awareness — and he’s not doing it alone.

Facebook has become Spinner’s secret weapon in this fight. On the Esophageal Cancer Awareness page, he’s constantly meeting new people, forming connections, and helping them through what is typically the fight of their lives.

“I want people to know. I don’t want people to suffer or any other families to go through this. It’s hard for anyone to go through. To watch them shrink.”

This article originally appeared on April 11, 2023 by Nick Ciletti on ABC 15 Arizona. Link to original article.