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In September 2016 I had trouble swallowing a cheeseburger at the Macdonalds in Woolwich, South East London. I started getting heartburn, hiccups and a feeling that there was a lump in my throat that prevented me from swallowing. As time went on I noticed that bread and rolls were particularly hard to swallow. As a salesman on the road, living on sandwiches and takeaways, this became slightly inconvenient.


I saw my GP within a couple of weeks and then began a series of tests. In November after the last of these, I received the phone call that you dread. I was on my own at home when the Specialist Nurse, working with my Oncologist, called to say that I had Oesophageal cancer. At that point I did not know what stage it was at or what treatment would be involved. So I did not share the news with anyone. It made more sense to hang on until there was a clearer picture of what lay ahead.


6 weeks of chemo-radiotherapy started in December followed by 12 weeks of recovery before surgery in April 2017. I was encouraged to up my exercise and walking routines to improve my strength. As I was about to go under the knife the surgeon asked me if he could film the operation for the benefit of his students. I wished I had worked harder on my 6 pack.


A couple of infections, leading to 5 weeks in intensive care, delayed my release back into society until June 2017. I was warned by my cancer counsellor that it would take a good year to get back to normal. Thanks to the support and encouragement from Southampton Hospital and from my family and friends, I steadily got stronger and started back to work in January 2018 on a part time basis.


I have been to a couple of PLANETS meetings and through these have come to realise how widely different people’s experience of this form of cancer can be. And also how little we still know of the best way to treat it. There are some brave and strong people working to improve our ability to cope with this cancer, and with increasing public and medical support, they will soon be successful.


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