Claire Evans Story

Hi, I’m Claire, I’m an oesophageal cancer patient.

Two and a half years ago I started having trouble swallowing bread and chicken, it felt like the food was getting stuck in my food pipe and wouldn’t go down for up to a minute each time. Aside from that I was well and healthy – I hadn’t smoked for 25 years and I walked and went for 10-mile cycle rides three times a week. I ignored the struggle to swallow some foods for a couple of months, thinking it was nothing serious, just acid reflux or something like that. Luckily for me, my partner had known someone with oesophageal cancer and he knew this could be a symptom of the disease. He made me go to my GP, and thankfully she took the symptoms seriously too.

I was suddenly put on a fast-tracked pathway where I got the results from every test within two weeks. I believe that process, and my partner’s insistence about getting myself checked, saved my life. I was diagnosed with OC in September 2021, had chemo for four months then had an eight-hour operation to remove my oesophagus and the tumour in it. I’ve been slowly recovering ever since. It’s been a real slog, taking two years to go from six stone to eight, and be able to eat a range of different foods. But I won’t ever complain about this because I’m one of the lucky few – two thirds of the people diagnosed with oesophageal cancer find out about it too late to have the operation or anything else that can potentially save their lives.

That’s why I am passionate about raising awareness of this cancer – and the potential symptoms everyone needs to get checked out as soon as possible. They are having persistent heartburn or acid reflux, difficulty swallowing food, hiccups that won’t go away, unexplained pain in your chest and excessive burping or inability to burp. Suffer with any of these for more than three weeks and you have to get to your GP straight away to ask for a scan.

I’d never heard of esophageal cancer until I was diagnosed with it, but I’d love other people to know it exists, so they can get treated and survive it instead of having it diagnosed too late.