It’s been a busy few months and as I’ve recently marked the milestone of being cancer-free for two years its time to pause and reflect on my post-cancer journey in 2021 so far. For me, everything I do is motivated by helping others through their cancer journey. I want more people to be empowered to ask for support, physically, psychologically, and emotionally, to ask for more information and share their concerns with their family and friends and with their health professionals, who should treat the patient and not just the disease.
Back in February, during the last lockdown, I teamed up with Macmillan Cancer Care and Dr Saheli Chaudary to mark World Cancer Day and play my part in encouraging cancer patients to continue attending their appointments. I shared my own experiences of safe visits to see my oncologist to help any patients worried about Covid in healthcare settings to overcome their anxieties and attend their appointments, as these are so critical to recovery.
The East of England Cancer Alliance is another superb organisation I’ve been working closely with over the past few months. It works together with NHS organisations, local authorities, voluntary and community sector partners, bringing together clinicians, commissioners, patients and members of the local community to deliver better outcomes for patients through early diagnosis and more integrated and personalised care for all those affected by cancer, which is something that is very close to my heart.
I had the pleasure of being invited to be a keynote speaker at their ‘Let’s Talk about Cancer’ event in March. The event, all online of course, was a chance for cancer patients to focus on their wellbeing and their own individual cancer journeys after a year of being overshadowed by Covid, supported by talks and workshops hosted for a range of experts. You can listen to the highlights here.
April bought an opportunity to raise awareness of the form of cancer I had for Oesophagus Cancer Awareness Month Europe, working in partnership with Digestive Cancers Europe (DICE). It’s a rare and aggressive cancer and according to Cancer Research UK, there are around 9,200 new oesophageal cancer cases in the UK every year, that’s 25 every day. Oesophageal cancer is the 14th most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 3% of all new cancer cases.
I was also invited to speak at a Masterclass – ‘Insights into Oesophageal and Gastric Cancers’ by DICE. You can read my story here and watch my video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xjhKvAEJKk and read my slides at www.digestivecancer.eu
Tragically, this cancer is often diagnosed at a late stage. When diagnosed at its earliest stage, more than 8 in 10 (84%) people with oesophageal cancer will survive their disease for one year or more, compared with around 1 in 5 (21%) people when the disease is diagnosed at the latest stage.
I told my own cancer story to the Daily Mirror and the Daily Express to shine a light on this relatively uncommon and little heard about type of cancer, as well being featured as part of the Digestive Cancers Europe campaign. I also wrote the prologue for DiCE’s essential new diet and nutrition guidance booklet for patients with gastric or oesophageal cancer, which will help support patients pre- and post-treatment.
It was very emotional revisiting the dark days of diagnosis for the media interviews, particularly talking about the loss of my brother and how it made me terrified I didn’t have long to live when I was diagnosed myself. But hope springs eternal, and it was another opportunity to express my belief in the importance of living in the moment, seizing the day and looking after your overall wellbeing to help combat and overcome cancer. If sharing my story helps just one other person seek out more help and support, I have made a difference.
For more information about support for cancer patients or any of the initiatives I’ve been involved with please take a look at my Resources page.
Thank you, remember you are not alone,