Our 10-year-old son Sam was always a skinny kid and a picky eater, never enough to cause serious concern. But gradually, things began to darken. Sometimes at family dinners, he would show a pained look, get up from the table and start pacing around. A few times he clutched his chest and began to panic — fear rising in the room — but just as quickly these moments would pass. Perhaps wanting to ignore the signs, my wife and I categorized these episodes as among the many kid behaviors that defy explanation.
But once the daily vomiting started, I hauled Sam to our pediatrician. Sam’s accelerating weight loss was substantial enough to merit a barium swallow X-ray study, “just in case” there were abnormalities in his swallowing function.
We can fix him, she said. Come see us.
I remember that moment vividly — the radiologist gently maneuvering Sam in front of the machine, collecting images, then flashing the bad news to me through a worried glance. Something was very wrong. A terrifying journey was about to begin. …