Sue Moffitt’s Story
“I was a very fit and healthy 65 year old – my obsession was running, I ran almost every other day, ran The London Marathon, many half marathons, trained with weights and did HIT twice a week, cycled, went rowing , open water swimming. Nothing was too much of a challenge. I felt very fortunate and remember thinking so and the strength I had in my body felt immense. I was healthy, I ate well didn’t really drink much and I tried to look after my body throughout my life.
Then one day in late November of 2020 I felt a sharp pain in my chest right in the middle of my rib cage. It struck like a lightening bolt. I thought it may be a bit of anxiety as throughout my life I’ve dealt with anxiety from time to time. The pain went but kept recurring over a few days. Into December I noticed that sometimes when eating I felt discomfit in my oesophagus it felt painful as if food was difficult to swallow.
Before this time I’d never even thought about my oesophagus – I mean I literally wasn’t really aware of it – a bit like your liver, spleen etc it’s there but you don’t feel it. I’d never suffered from indigestion or acid reflux- I always thought my stomach was made of steel – I rarely had tummy issues.
The difficulty in swallowing kept persisting and about a week before Christmas I went to see doctor. They thought I may have acid reflux. Took some blood and gave me Larazapam.
I continued through the Christmas period with not being able to eat much at all, the hurting got worse. I had talked to a friend who was a nurse and she suggested I get tested for H Pylori Helobackter. Having found out what it was I had a test and it was positive. So I then went on a 3 week course of antibiotics- assuming that was the cause and problem.
Having finished the course, I kept saying to Doctor, the swallowing is not getting better. We are now into COVID and they suggested an endoscopy but it could take a while to get done. So I paid to get it done privately because the pain was getting worse.
On the 25 February 2021 I was diagnosed with Stage3 Advanced Oesophageal cancer. That day was like another bolt of lightening. I had thought something was wrong but not this. This could not be. I’m not the correct stereotype for Oesophageal cancer. I could not process – I was in denial.
I remember going to the RVI to talk to the surgeon about options: it was a surreal experience.
- Do nothing but will be dead in 9 months
- Operation – to remove oesophagus one of mankind’s most complex surgeries with life changing outcomes but no guarantee to cure me of the cancer, given it’s late staging. But would need Chemotherapy and radiotherapy too.
- Radical chemoradiotherapy which would give 30% chance of cure.
This I had to digest over a weekend and make a decision as I had to start treatment asap.
I remember listening to the surgeon who explained in great detail the operation to me. I listening in horror to the gruesome details and I knew I couldn’t do it. Not without a high chance of being cured. I felt living on my own was hard enough, having lost my husband a few years prior, but living on my own and dealing with the issues of the surgery was something I couldn’t comprehend or think about. I shan’t go into the details of the surgery but it would take a high chance of being free of cancer to undertake that journey.
So I opted for Radical chemoradiotherapy.
I then had to have immunerable tests and scans to make sure I was fit enough to withstand the treatment. Which I have to say was much harder than I had anticipated. There is much I can talk about at this point but I plan to write a blog and to go into more detail about my experience, in order to raise awareness and to educate and help those going through a similar journey. We are all the different, cancer is not just the same for everyone, each type of cancer is different. People talk about cancer but actually there is so much more to it than wrap it up in a bundle marked “C”.
I started treatment on 29 March 2021. It’s like taking a step into the unknown, it’s scary, it’s toxic, it’s brutal.
After finishing treatment which took all of my courage to do so, I was in pain, terrible pain in my oesophagus from the radiotherapy. It took some time but gradually I was able to eat again.
However I finished treatment in July and by September they found spot on my left lung. This had to be treated with sabre radiotherapy which finished in December.
My last scan showed progressive cancer in my oesophagus and in my lower left lung and lymph nodes.
I have struggled with food, not being able to get things down. I had a stent fitted recently which caused agonising pain. I was hospitalised and pain control has been difficult.
I then got some food stuck which again caused excruciating pain, I went to hospital again. I’ve had 3 weeks in hospital and I’m now in St Oswalds Hospice for respite care. Without St Oswalds I don’t know where I would be. I have supported St Oswalds over the years and will continue to do so, it is a safe place for those in need. But we need more awareness and more information about Oesophageal cancer – I received little information there was no one really to talk to about my own personal journey to talk about the things that can happen. Some people may not want to know, but information is knowledge and that is important when coming to make decisions.
This disease affects our life support system. It starves us to death. Food is our life source – it is part of our social need for camaraderie- for fun for enjoyment. When that is taken away and until it is taken away we do not realise how important food is to life itself.
I want to campaign for more research into this cancer, to find ways of helping those go through the suffering it causes and to find a way of alleviating that pain and for people not to feel isolated and alone.
I’ve been fortunate- my family are amazing. They make me proud, they have courage, strength, they are kind, they are the good things in my life and I respect and admire them. Without them I could not have got to this point. But families need support too. They have been through this journey with me, they have had to juggle work, their families, my needs as well as just dealing with day to day things. They are my heroes.
I cannot express how my friends have carried me through these past couple of years. I am lucky I know my friends have been there day in day out.
Their support has given me courage. Courage is what we have to dig deep for when facing our own mortality.”
– Sue Moffitt