Frances Hill (66) a retired Queen’s University lecturer, lives in Carryduff with her husband Brian. She has two daughters, Sonya and Lucy. She says:

Looking back, I was very fortunate as my symptoms weren’t too bad, but, because of that, they could easily have  been overlooked.

Last July I was having trouble swallowing although I was managing to eat and drink. I went to the GP to get it checked out anyway. 

He didn’t think it was anything sinister but sent me to see a consultant just to make sure.

The consultant decided to do a scope test which revealed I had a tumour and, following various tests and scans, it was revealed I had oesophageal cancer.

I was referred to the Cancer Centre in the City Hospital, Belfast, where they did more tests to make sure the cancer hadn’t spread anywhere else. That was the worst and most worrying bit — waiting for the results. Afterwards I had to have two rounds of chemo before surgery.

In the end, I had to have two operations as there was a complication with one of the ops which set my recovery back.

I was in hospital for four and a half weeks, getting home just days before Christmas on December 23.

I wasn’t in much form for eating my Christmas dinner last year but that didn’t matter as I was home with my family.

The physical recovery has been slow and it takes a while to eat normally again. It is a long process.

I was very fortunate as I was diagnosed and treated early. The outcome could have been very different.

Today, I am very thankful for all I have and try to focus on moving forward.

My husband and daughters have been fantastic all the way through this journey and I have amazing friends as well.

The hospital staff were wonderful as well and the Macmillan nurses.

You are never left on your own to deal with things. There is always someone to talk to.

I would encourage anyone with any symptoms they are concerned about — no matter how small to go and get them checked out.

Early detection really does save lives. I am proof of that.”

What is Oesophago-Gastric Cancer?

Oesophageal cancer is cancer of the gullet and gastric cancer is cancer of the stomach. Combined, they are medically known as oesophago-gastric (OG) cancer. The oesophagus (more commonly known as the gullet or food pipe) is the long tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach. In Northern Ireland in 2016, a total of 226 people were diagnosed with oesophageal (gullet) cancer. In the same year, 214 people were newly diagnosed with gastric (stomach) cancer.

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