In early May of 2010 I had first notice difficulty in swallowing, this persisted for a few weeks before I made an appointment with my GP who immediately sent me to the local hospital. From there an endoscopy revealed a tumour in the lower oesophagus and after a biopsy it was diagnosed malignant. Staging revealed a T3 N1 M0 and a curative treatment plan was formulated by the oncologist and surgeons to offer chemotherapy followed by surgery.
By the August of 2010 I started my chemotherapy regime, a 3 x 3 week of ECX, this I tolerated quit well most of the time but there were some bad days. Unfortunately by the sixth week I had a reaction by way of an embolism in my right foot, this prompted the oncologist to stop the treatment and go to surgery after a 4 week rest period from the chemotherapy.
On the 8th November I went to theatre from a ivor-lewis procedure . Although I coped well with the operation complication set in a day after surgery, the join did not take and started to leek, we had been told it was due to a poor blood supply to the connection.
The next day I went to theatre again for another operation to repair the leak, this time recovery was a lot harder as I was suffering the effects from the previous day’s surgery. Unfortunately the repair was unsuccessful and within a few days narcosis (dead tissue) set in causing septicaemia (blood poisoning).
A few days after the second operation and still unconsciousness I’m back in theatre for a third operation. This time surgeons needed to remove the effected tissue which included what remained of the oesophagus and about three quarters of my stomach. This procedure was successful but left me with the remainder of my oesophagus coming out of my neck and a much diminished immune system.
Two weeks later I came round from the operations, totally paralysed and unable to speak. The doctors thought I had locked-in syndrome but later diagnosed peripheral neuropathy, when the body’s peripheral nervous system shuts down to allow as much body resources as possible to support the central nerves system (brain, heart & lungs ect). Because I had been (and still was) on a ventilator my vocal cords did not work and the only way of communicating was by blinking. My voice came back six weeks later via some gizmo fitted to my trachea which allowed me to speak (in a fashion) and after another month my voice was back to normal.
It took 108 day’s in ICU battling septicaemia, a long list of other infections and ICU psychosis. I had gone from 16st 7lb to 9st 7lb. The weight loss was mainly due to muscle wastage caused by total inactivity, but movement was coming back and my general health had stabilised enough to be admitted to a general surgical ward.
After a 3 month stay in the surgical ward still fighting infections I’d learned how to stand up and walk (all be it only 50ft in a Zimmer frame) and my weight went up to 11st 4lb. Then they let me home to recover in a more comfortable environment.
11 months after my operation I had a PET scan which showed hot spots in my neck and on my back by the operation scar area but no other areas of involvement (vital organs or lymph node), my surgeon arranged a biopsy and the results showed positive for cancer. The surgeon now doubts if a reconstruction will be possible, which is disappointing. My oncologist labelled this a recurrence and planed a palliative course radiotherapy.
4 months on and a CT scan was performed showing no change, my oncologist now thinks that the cancer my not be a recurrence but the result of un-cleared margins from the operation. He has now asked for a CT scan in 4 months and in the meantime is using a wait and see policy.
Today I take all feed, hydration and meds via a stomach tube (16 hours a day), I weigh 12st 5lb (a weight I’m happy with), and I can now walk about a mile. I am a very lucky man to have such a supportive family, friends, GP, nurses and doctors