I am a 45 year old female diagnosed with Cancer of the Oesophagus in August after being ill for several months with doctors struggling to diagnose me and me becoming very weak and malnourished due to the inability to keep foods or liquids down. Sought another GP after the one I was seeing came out with the comment that if you feel dizzy go to A+E for them to put you on a drip. She seemed ot have no concerns that I was describing myself as an involuntary anorexic who had now lost 20kgs.
The new GP got me into see a gastroenterologist for an endoscopy the following day where he found the tumour which was blocking the bottom of my oesophagus making it impossible to get a normal tube down the gap therefore explaining the inability to eat and keep it down.
Everything happened very quickly from there and I was sent for CT scans and referred to the hospital within a few days and then another endoscopy, sent for a PET scan by now complete with a nasal gastric tube to try and keep a nutritional substance in my body, this did not work food wise as I was being sick, bringing it all back up until eventually the tube came back up within 5 days as well. Still losing around 2 kgs a week in weight.
PET scan results highlighted a concern with one of my ovaries and that the cancer may have spread, they operated two days later to remove the ovary and insert a J -tube to feed me into my intestine. I saw the oncologist who was waiting on the results of the Ovary biopsy to determine treatment as if it had already spread then my treatmetn would be different as it would be palliative. Scary thoughts went through my mind but held out hope that it was just cysts which is what the surgeon had told me he thought they were. The oncologist rang me that afternoon and told me that my ovary was clear and that they could now go ahead with trying to shrink the tumour in preparation for surgery.
12 weeks ago I undertook chemo and at this time I was so ill that I was being fed through a tube and could not even keep saliva down in my stomach and looked a very sorry sight in the day therapy unit.
9 weeks ago I was able to eat small amounts of solid food which was to me such a big hurdle crossed although the main nutrition was still coming through the tube,
6 weeks ago I took my own sandwiches in with me to chemo and of course some chocolate bars as I was continually hungry. I felt such an achievement and felt such confidence in the chemo and what it was achieving. I now am eating about 6 meals a day and trying to build my weight back off, must say it is quick enough to fall away but takes ages and lots of food to try and put it back on. So far only managed about 6kgs and my poor husband cannot believe how much I am now eating.
The CT scan now shows that the tumour is now just a thickening around the outside of the oesophagus which is fantastic but now the bit I am dreading the operation to rearrange my digestive system to remove the rest of the cancer, which is on Monday.
I must admit I currently don't look or feel ill just reminded when I look in the mirror and I have no hair or when I look at my tummy and there is a tube in there, I will need it again after the operation.
I have to say I was dreading the chemo experience but managed to sail through it quite easily compared to others. I had my bad days when I just felt very tired and drained but to be honest knowing it was working outweighed any thought of feeling sorry for myself and I just waited to feel better and move forward.
I will be spending Christmas and probably New Year and even my birthday in hospital but will receive the best present ever for all these occasions as I will be cancer free. I will have to face more chemo after the operation as a maintenance measure but hopefully it should all be over by Easter.
I am very lucky in that I have an ideal role model in this beating cancer, as my mother was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer 15 years ago and she is still going strong and offering me support to get through this. Which is ironic as I she has always nagged me to check for breast cancer and the one I go and get is difficult to diagnose before it has become severe and especially in some on my age as most people are in their 60's before they get this.
My husband has been absolutely great and there for me every step of the way and reminds me constantly that he has too many plans for the future for me to be ill, which he intends to share with me.
I have two adult daughters who are both coping very differently and the one that will struggle with seeing me after the op will luckily be away for Christmas visiting family in the UK and I should be back on my feet by the time she returns. The other is making plans with my husband on my care when I come back home.
I would like ot say happy Christmas and New Year to all and may you all get what you wish for and if not before will report back when I am back home.
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.