As a Pharmacist, I have met and worked with many people who had cancer but the death of my Uncle Sean in 2004 marked the first time it had affected my own family.
Sean was a priest, my mum’s brother, and the youngest in the family. He lived and worked in Strandhill, Co. Sligo until he died in November 2004. As he lived with my Granny, growing up, we saw lots of him. With the exception of the Christmas he spent in the Lebanon as an Army Chaplain, he stayed with us for the holidays every year.
In October 2003, while Sean and I were in South Africa, the first signs that something was wrong showed itself. Uncle Sean loved his food, but on the trip, he was having real difficulty finishing a meal. On his return to Ireland, he went to his GP and at the end of November, was diagnosed with Oesophageal Cancer.
For the last year of Sean’s life we took turns helping him out, collecting him from Strandill to bring him to St James’ and St Luke’s Hospitals for appointments, going wherever he needed to go. It was a great privilege to be able to live through that year with Sean and we all miss him greatly especially at Christmas time.
When I first became aware of the Oesophageal Cancer Fund (OCF) and their annual Lollipop Day Collection, I was delighted to support it and every year we do what we can to increase the profile and awareness, in our local area. For more information on Lollipop Day please click here.
There is a wealth of information on the above website, but just as a quick reference, I have added the main risk factors and symptoms below.
- Long term or severe reflux can increase the risk of Oesophageal Cancer. It is more prevalent over the age of sixty years and men are more prone to this form of cancer than women. Obesity, heavy alcohol use, and smoking are also contributing factors.
- Symptoms can include a difficulty in swallowing food, a feeling as though there is something stuck in your oesophagus (food pipe). Pain in the chest, back, or throat, with constant heartburn. A poor appetite, weight loss or vomiting. Other signs may include frequent hiccoughs or belching.
If you have any concerns you should have a chat to your GP, it is always better to err on the side of caution, than hope it will disappear. Early detection and treatment is so important.
If you see someone outside the supermarket, train station or post office selling red heart shaped lollipops over the next couple of days, please give them €2 or whatever you can afford.
When Sean was alive my family did what they could to help him on his final journey. Even after his passing by supporting the OCF we feel we are helping people like Sean on their own individual journeys. I encourage everyone to help where they can.