For Fintona based Kevin Campbell, it was his mother’s previous diagnosis and unfortunate passing that helped to save his life.
With an overarching awareness of the early signs and symptoms of oesophageal cancer, Tyrone man Kevin was quick to seek advice from his GP after finding a restriction when swallowing food one routine lunchtime.
“My mother had been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in 2007 and unfortunately passed away as her diagnosis came too late for surgical intervention. I was very acutely aware of the symptoms because of this,” said Kevin.
“The GP referred me for an endoscope and the doctors then discovered a tumour in my oesophagus. This was only the start of my journey with blood tests, hospital visits, exploratory checks and a decision on treatment.”
As Kevin recognised the early signs, he was able to have an oesophagectomy not even a year later, in May 2017.
As the standard post operation procedure, Kevin was required to attend monthly hospital visits. It was during one of these hospital visits that a clinical nurse at City Hospital introduced him to OG Cancer NI.
OG Cancer NI is a Northern Ireland based charity that supports patients and carers facing an oesophageal or stomach cancer diagnosis, while also aiming to raise awareness of the early symptoms of the illness.
“It was great to have contact with the OG Nurse Specialists for support, as well as community nurses,” shared Kevin. “The effect is not just physical, it’s mental, in terms of body confidence and how you look and feel about yourself. But it is important to get back to a sense of normality.
“As a keen cyclist, I decided to get back on the bike and get a level of fitness back up… Whilst walking up and down the ward I saw an advertisement for an Oesophacycle for OG Cancer and, the year after, I took part.”
In line with their aims, OG Cancer NI has recently launched their new mobile unit. As the unit makes its way across Northern Ireland it will serve as a support for those currently receiving treatment, worried about symptoms, or the recently diagnosed.
The long-term objective of the mobile unit is to spread awareness in order to increase survival rates.
“Campaigns like this are so beneficial”, added Kevin. “The key thing is early diagnosis, due to my mother it was always in the back of my mind and helped me to push forward for treatment. I was very aware.
“Early awareness is the key; if you are experiencing reflux, weight loss or having trouble swallowing, you need to be so proactive in getting yourself looked at and receiving medical advice. That’s the key.”
Recognising the signs and symptoms of oesophageal cancer are crucial to early diagnosis. Consult your GP if the following symptoms have been ongoing for more than 3 weeks: persistent indigestion, difficulty swallowing or food sticking, heartburn acid reflux, hiccupping that won’t go away, unexplained weight loss.
For those currently undergoing treatment, Kevin shares his words of advice: “Go through the process, take each stage as it comes and work towards each stage. Surround yourself with as many people as you can and take the support of the Clinical Nurse Specialist.
“You may feel bombarded with leaflets and information, which can be overwhelming. However, it’s good to talk to people who have been through it to get in the right mindset, try your best to keep a positive mental attitude.”
More information about the OG Cancer Mobile Unit is available on the website. For more information about Oesophago-Gastric cancer or support, go to https://ogcancerni.com/