Philip - Gastro-Intestinal Cancer Support Group

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Philip

My Story

These pages list some members of the GICS group who have been kind enough to share their experiences on our website as a help to others who may be interested. All are happy to talk to new members about their experiences with GI Cancers. All members are contactable through the GICS group. If you wish to talk to someone who has gone (or is going) through a similar experience to your own, please email or telephone using the contact details for the group at the bottom of the HOME page.

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Member Name - Philip

Oesophageal Cancer, 2001




Hello,   I’m Philip – living proof that you can have a good and full life after the trials and tribulations of diagnosis and treatment.

I was first diagnosed with Oesophageal cancer in 2001, just one week before setting out for a three month sailing trip round the Black Sea to Russia. In fact, if it had not been for this trip I would not have been diagnosed so early.  I was a healthy, fit, 55 year old, with no signs of any problems except for the need to straighten when eating, and it was my partner Pat (soon to become my carer!) who insisted I went to the Doctors for a check-up before leaving. He recognised that it could be serious and because of the short amount of time before leaving, I paid for a private X-ray and from that was diagnosed with cancer the day before leaving!

Even though this was back in 2001 and cancer services have improved dramatically since then, I received the best treatment on the NHS that I could have hoped for. The system and organisation was nowhere near as co-ordinated as it is today, but even so the professionalism and care provided by my oncologist, surgeon and nursing staff was the best of its day. I lived at Leigh-on-Sea at the time and had my treatment at Southend Hospital, which was then the cancer centre. I started with a six session Chemotherapy course to shrink the tumour, which I did not find too difficult, and was told to eat as much as possible (no problem – I managed to put on three stone!)  My operation (by Francis Hughes, wonderful surgeon) lasted seven hours and involved removing my oesophagus and reforming my stomach into a tube to replace it.  This is known as an Ivor Lewis and (for those who are interested), means major incisions below the belt and across the back, as can be seen from the photos below!

I spent the best part of the next week in the Intensive Care unit before embarking on the long road to recovery, hampered by the incision on my back that took time to heal.  About six weeks after the operation, just when I was starting to regain my strength, I began a further course of Chemotherapy, which I found very difficult.  This was part of a trial to see if chemo after an operation gave you a better chance of long term survival by getting rid of any spurious cancer cells released by the operation.  Whether it does or not I don’t know, but I wanted to have every chance possible; and am still here, although the effect of the chemo on my weakened body made me think I wouldn’t be. I lost about five stone, and only just managed to survive the course.

However all that is behind me now. With loving care from Pat, my family and help from many friends, over the next year I regained my strength and returned to a full active life.  I continue with my sailing and have been lucky enough to travel extensively.  I have not had any residual problems from the cancer, only the effects from the major re-arrangement of my plumbing, which I have learnt to live with.  I wish I had kept a better log of my recovery over the years, but all I can say is that I noticed significant improvements each year for a least the first five years and even now notice changes (but some of these may be due to old age!).

I always enjoyed my food, and still do.  I can eat most things, but quantity sometimes becomes an issue as I no longer have the reservoir of a stomach to cope.  Little and often is definitely the right approach if you can adopt it. I can eat spicy foods, (and have been to India at least four times) but they do have known adverse effects (!), and enjoy beers and spirits. Wines, however, unless they are very sweet like hocks, I find very acidic and have to water them down to drink them.  My weight remains constant at about nine stone, so I do not carry much fat, which makes cold weather very uncomfortable. However I seem to have energy to do all I want to do and my overall health is excellent – I just do not seem to suffer from the aches, pains and ailments that seem to affect many of my peers.

I am a founder member of GICS and pleased to see it go from strength to strength, giving support to so many and making new friends on the way.  I also sit as a “User Representative” on various NHS committees giving the patient viewpoint.  This is a very rewarding activity and I would encourage anyone reading this to consider volunteering since it is a way of improving NHS services for other cancer patients. After all, we have been through it and understand better than anyone what is involved, what is important to patients and are therefore well placed to advise on how decisions being made  can affect us.  The NHS welcomes these views and has places for “User Reps” on most of its committees.

If anyone wants to talk to me further, either about experiences / effects of Oesophageal cancer, or getting involved with User Representation I would be pleased to talk to them.  I can be contacted through the GICS organisation.

                                

M
e, a week after the operation in 2001!!                   And, now. With my wonderful wife, Pat.

 
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