“In 2020, I was diagnosed with oesophageal gastric junction cancer. The journey to my diagnosis was long and the symptoms I experienced weren’t initially recognisable.

“I first felt something wasn’t quite right in October 2019. I would describe it as a strange discomfort in my stomach – I would feel very full or very hungry, in other words, the messages my stomach was sending to my brain didn’t seem to make sense. After a couple of months, I went to the GP about it who wasn’t particularly concerned and prescribed a course of antibiotics for what he thought was a common bacterial infection.

When my symptoms worsened, I went back to my GP, who at this stage suggested an urgent referral for an endoscope. After a little wait, I called the hospital to check if I had a date scheduled and was surprised to learn that the waiting list would be 72 weeks. My stomach was becoming more and more uncomfortable with cramps and a lot of hiccups and gas. I also noticed I was extremely tired, which I later learned was a result of being very anaemic.

“I lived with these symptoms for a few more months and in July 2020 took the decision to see a private consultant. From there, I had a CT scan which prompted an urgent endoscope and a tumour was identified at the bottom of my oesophagus, right where it joins the stomach. To finally know what I was dealing with brought some sense of relief despite of course being a huge shock.

“Treatment for my illness involved pre and post operative chemotherapy, so I started chemotherapy first, then had an oesophagectomy. I had the second part of my chemotherapy a few weeks later. The cancer unfortunately returned a short time after that around a lymph node in the area of my surgery, which meant more chemotherapy and radiotherapy throughout the second half of 2021.

“Since then, my recovery has been good and whilst it is slow to getting used to eating again, it is manageable. I eat slowly, having small amounts often. I find it hard to gain weight but otherwise things are pretty good. All the help, support and treatment I received was fantastic and I am extremely lucky to have a wonderfully supportive partner, my wife Clare.

“OGCancerNI was another excellent source of support for me and also for Clare. As a dedicated charity for oesophageal and gastric cancer in Northern Ireland, I found their knowledge very useful. Connecting with the charity meant I could meet and speak with people who had been through this experience or similar.

“The charity hosts a lot of events and get togethers where specialists share expert insights into topics such as diet and recovery. Being in a less formal setting than a hospital for these meetings helps and means you can socialise with people who can relate to what you have been through. Clare and I have also volunteered through OGCancerNI which has been very enriching – and for us, has brought something positive from an experience we never expected to have.”

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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