"There aren’t really words for this pain,"

By Maggie O'Neill
Updated December 26, 2019

Naomie Olindo's father, Joel Olindo, has died from esophageal cancer, according to an emotional post on her Instagram page Monday.

Olindo, who stars on Bravo’s Southern Charm, revealed her father actually died last Friday, after a yearlong battle with the disease. “I lost a piece of my heart last Friday," she wrote. "After privately fighting esophageal cancer for 12 excruciating months, my dad lost the only fight he’s ever lost,”

The photo shows Olindo and her mother Carole holding her father's hands while he's in a hospital bed. “He died peacefully surrounded by people that loved him more than words can explain,” Olindo wrote.

“There aren’t really words for this pain but I’m very thankful for the kindness and love our friends and family have shown my mom and me during the most difficult time of our life.”

What is esophageal cancer?

Esophageal cancer is a rare type of cancer that forms in the tissue of the esophagus, or the muscular, hollow tube responsible for moving food and liquid from the throat to the stomach. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), esophageal cancer only accounts for about 1% of all cancers in the U.S., and typically affects men more than women.

The two main forms of the cancer are squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma, each named for the cells that become cancerous, according to information from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). (Squamous cell carcinoma typically occurs in the middle and upper parts of the esophagus, while adenocarcinomas, usually begin near the stomach in the lower portion of the esophagus.)

Certain risk factors can make you more likely to be diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Among these are heavy alcohol use, tobacco use, old age, and a condition called Barrett esophagus, which is often caused by heartburn.

Symptoms of esophageal cancer include difficulty swallowing, pain when swallowing, pain experienced behind your breastbone, weight loss, heartburn, indigestion, coughing, and hoarseness.

Doctors use a variety of tests to diagnose esophageal cancer, which include physical exams, chest x-rays, biopsies, and esophagoscopies (procedures that allow doctors an inside look at the esophagus by way of a tube-like instrument).

Once the cancer is detected, a patient’s prognosis (or, their chances of recovering fully) depends on a few factors, including what stage the cancer was when it was detected. Additionally, whether or not doctors are able to completely remove an esophageal cancer patient’s tumor affects that patient’s chances of recovering. According to the ACS, patients diagnosed with esophageal cancer have about a 20% survival rate five years after diagnosis.

Treatment options for esophageal cancer patients include radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, laser therapy, chemoradiation therapy, and electrocoagulation, which is a way to change blood from a liquid to a solid.

Olindo wrote in her caption: “If someone you love is fighting this horrible disease, please know my heart is with you and it truly aches for you.”

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