My diagnosis of oesophageal cancer came as a complete surprise. Looking back, I can see that I hadn’t been able to eat as much, but I put that down to getting older.
It wasn’t until I suddenly started vomiting out of the blue that I saw my doctor. A series of scans revealed I had a blockage in the gullet. An endoscopy confirmed it was oesophageal cancer.
I was admitted to hospital for chemotherapy and radiation therapy to shrink the tumour, and then went home to recover for six weeks before having surgery.
For those three months, I was fed through a feeding tube. I found it a bit frightening at first to deal with the feeding tube at home – it was difficult to clear when it got blocked and one night I pulled it out in my sleep and had to go to hospital to have it reinserted.
The surgery was a major procedure: it took eight hours to remove my oesophagus and reconnect my stomach.
While recovering, I found the dietitians at the hospital very helpful in suggesting foods I could eat. At first I had a feeding tube, then I started on liquids and soft foods. By the time I left rehab, about four weeks after surgery, I was able to handle most foods.
Once I was home, I followed the dietitian’s advice and I haven’t had many problems with eating or swallowing. I take a tablet to help prevent regurgitation, sleep sitting up, and eat small meals throughout the day.
Although it took a while before I was game to try some foods, I now eat most things, but in small portions. You learn what foods suit you and what foods don’t.
Nearly four years after surgery, I have an almost normal lifestyle with moderation in all things.
Podcast for people affected by cancer