Back in the summer of 2020, a routine blood test showed that I was very anaemic. Thankfully, my GP noted that I shouldn’t typically be anaemic at my stage of life and referred me for investigations. At this stage, I felt completely normal, apart from what I would describe as occasional heartburn, which I’d had for quite some time and wasn’t too concerned about.

From there, an endoscope showed that I had a 3cm tumour at the junction of my oesophagus and my stomach which of course was a shock. I had some scans to check what stage this was and to agree a plan of action. Ultimately this would involve chemotherapy followed by surgery.

My husband Steve is an amputee and I am the main carer for my daughter Emma who has Spina Bifida and my first thought was honestly about them and how an illness like mine would impact on my ability to care for Emma.  Thankfully I was able to seek immediate practical help through the support of social care.

“The main side effect I had from chemotherapy was fatigue and I had some complications after surgery that thankfully were treatable. I remember a consultant saying I could expect to take a full year to recover and they were right. In saying that, I now feel quite normal. I can eat a reasonable sized meal and the experience is almost fading into the background of my mind as I go about more or less living my normal life.

“I would say to anyone facing this illness, there is support out there and having a charity like OG Cancer NI is great. You can meet people who understand the illness and can swap stories with you about what you’ve all been through. You’ll have a common bond and that really helps. I would also say be patient in your recovery. It is easier said than done but it really does take time to feel close to your old self again – realising that this phase is normal, is good to know.

“And to anyone who, like me, finds themselves facing cancer as a carer, definitely prioritise your health. You can’t take care of people you love otherwise. I know I deliberated going for further tests at the start of my illness because I really didn’t want to disrupt things for Emma and Steve. I almost didn’t want to know. But now I think, what if I hadn’t? My story would be very different, as would theirs.

“One day during my recovery there was some music on the radio and I just instinctively started to dance. It sounds silly but this was a pivotal moment for me. I realised I hadn’t wanted to dance or even move much in a long time. I was getting my spirit back. 

“My belief is that cancer was just one part of my life – it is in the past and I just deal with the here and now. We since got a little dog for our family, Bella the Yorkiepoo, which has brought us joy and activity. I’m also volunteering once a month with the OG Cancer information stand at the Upper GI Clinic at Belfast City Hospital.

“There is life during and after cancer. I think it’s important people hear that.”

Lorraine's Story
"My persistence led to me being diagnosed with oesophageal cancer."
Helen's Story
"When I was diagnosed, we were all numb"
Tom's Story
"It was so distressing and a very anxious time for me"

Early Diagnosis is Key #CatchItEarly

Oesophageal cancer like many other cancers does not discriminate between age or sex and knowing and recognising the signs and symptoms are crucial to early diagnosis.  If you suffer from any of the following symptoms for longer than 3 weeks you should consult your doctor.

  • Persistent Indigestion
  • Difficulty swallowing or food sticking
  • Heartburn acid reflux
  • Hiccupping that wont go away
  • Unexplained weight loss.

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