BANGOR RESIDENTS JOIN CANCER SYMPTOM AWARENESS DRIVE

TWO Bangor residents have shared their experiences as part of a campaign urging the public to be aware of cancer symptoms.

The charity OG Cancer NI is encouraging the public to be aware of the symptoms that could be a sign of oesophageal and gastric (OG) cancers, and the importance of having them checked out ‘without delay’.

Fifty seven year-old Sean Greer, lives in Bangor with his wife Clare. He was diagnosed with oesophageal gastric junction cancer in 2020, having felt discomfort in his stomach.

“I would feel either very full or very hungry – like the messages my stomach was sending to my brain didn’t seem to make sense,” Sean explained.
Having been prescribed a course of antibiotics for what was thought to be a common bacterial infection, Sean experienced worsening discomfort, including tiredness which was later found to be the result of being very anaemic.
An endoscopy found a tumour at the bottom of his oesophagus, where it joins the stomach.

Sean’s treatment involved pre and post operative chemotherapy, followed by an oesophagectomy and further chemotherapy a few weeks later.

Sean recalled:  “The cancer unfortunately returned a short time after that around a lymph node in the area of my surgery, which meant more chemotherapy and radiotherapy throughout the second half of 2021.
“Since then, my recovery has been good and whilst it is slow getting used to eating again, it is manageable. I eat slowly, having small amounts often. I find it hard to gain weight but otherwise things are pretty good.

“All the help, support and treatment I received was fantastic and I am extremely lucky to have a wonderfully supportive partner, my wife Clare,” he said.
“OG Cancer NI was an excellent source of support for me and Clare. I found their knowledge very useful and they host get-togethers where specialists share expert insights into topics such as diet and recovery.

“Being in a less formal setting than a hospital for these meetings helps and means you can socialise with people who can relate to what you have been through. Clare and I have also volunteered through OG Cancer NI which has been very enriching – and for us, has brought something positive from an experience we never expected to have.”
Ballyholme resident Caroline Ellison lost her husband Paddy to OG cancer in 2022.

She recalled how Paddy had been suffering from acid reflux for some time, and found it hard to swallow some foods.

Caroline said: “An endoscope identified a small tumour at the edge of Paddy’s stomach and oesophagus. Initially, Paddy’s outlook was positive as the tumour was small and removable. He went through chemotherapy in November 2021 and in February 2022, he was scheduled for an operation to remove the tumour.

“Unfortunately, from there, Paddy experienced a lot of complications. His surgery didn’t go to plan and there were many other issues throughout this difficult time.
“A scan in August 2022 showed that Paddy’s cancer was very advanced and we were told there was nothing more that could be done. Paddy came home from hospital and passed away peacefully with me and his sons around him. Paddy was an active, fit and sociable man and sometimes it is hard to believe.
“At Christmas time, I held a fundraiser for OG Cancer NI. I feel it is something I can do to help others in this situation. There are people in the charity’s network who have lost people to this type of cancer and having a place to talk about your feelings is important.”

OG Cancer NI offers a mobile information unit throughout Northern Ireland and hosts wellbeing meetings where specialists including nurses, dieticians, benefits advisors and other charities offer information for patients and their carers.

The charity has an information desk for cancer patients at Belfast City Hospital’s Upper GI Clinic, provides comfort packs for post surgery patients and makes one to one telephone calls to people undergoing treatment. It also provides funds for specialised hospital equipment and the training of medical personnel.
Anyone concerned about symptoms they are experiencing should speak to their GP without delay and further information and advice is available at www.ogcancerni.com