I could so easily have ignored it and not done anything for months

Noeleen McMorris, is a retired mother and grandmother from Eglinton. She was 62 years old when she was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer.

In September 2016 I was working my notice to retire from my role as practise education radiographer supporting student radiographers. I noticed that I had been getting a lot of hiccups and my swallowing had also changed slightly. I was also aware of an irritation in my oesophagus and was concerned it may have been a side effect of medication I was taking. So, I made a routine (non-urgent) appointment with my GP; I didn’t think there was anything

seriously wrong. The GP said she would send me for a scope as per the NICE guidelines. I was red flagged for an endoscopy and on the day I had it, I was told I had a 7.5cm tumour in my oesophagus.

I automatically thought the worst, and began the journey of scans, CT and Ultrasounds.

Thankfully I was fit enough for chemotherapy. I was given 2 rounds and then had an Oesophagectomy in March 2017. I was then told it was stage two cancer. The team at the City Hospital were great throughout, and I couldn’t fault them. Although it was a big shock, I was glad I had gone to the doctor so early.

I still have some of the side effects of surgery in my recovery such as dumping syndrome and tiredness, but I have learnt the coping mechanisms. I eat hourly during the day and need to watch what I eat. I did lose a lot of weight and that affected my confidence, but I continue to try and work with dieticians and CNS to maintain healthy eating. I look at this as a small price to pay for what I have. I am still here and still able to meet up with friends and go away with family, it is different, but it’s still good. I was 5 years post-surgery this year and have now been discharged from the City Hospital.

Every year mentally I have felt stronger. Even being able to talk about it now without getting upset is progress.

Something my son in law said stuck with me, ‘in hospital you only saw the worst cases, people at the worst time’ but now, with the charity meetups and events, I have seen people post recovery enjoying a great life which gives a much more positive outlook and I have been able to keep in touch with other patients with similar experiences.

The Clinical Nurse Specialist and OG Cancer NI charity were also a great help for advice and support, and still are.

Overall, it has been a rollercoaster but I’m well enough down the line now to appreciate that I am healthy. I deal with the symptoms, and I know how to adjust to cope with them and I positively encourage myself to eat healthily and eat properly.

I could so easily have ignored my hiccups and not done anything for months, I had a healthy lifestyle prior to my diagnosis and didn’t fit the usual statistics of those most likely to get this cancer. I am so very grateful my GP was on the ball and pushed for an endoscopy. Seeking advice and getting treatment is why I am here today.

My advice to someone who is going through treatment is, listen to the medical team who are there and take each day at a time. Hopefully each day you will feel better, that’s what happened to me. Don’t try to think too far ahead. Keep in touch with groups like OG Cancer for advice and information, try not to look on the ‘worst sites’ try and stay positive.

Spreading awareness of the early symptoms of this illness is so important. People still don’t understand that anyone can get it. It is not just older men, smokers, or drinkers. Be aware of changes in swallowing, reflux, or hiccups and get it checked out.

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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