By mid-October I received the bad news; I had oesophageal cancer. Unaware of how advanced the cancer was I spent the next three weeks contemplating what might lie ahead: an oesophagectomy, chemotherapy, a much earlier death than I had ever anticipated? During that time further biopsies were collected and I was soon told the cancer was at an early stage, confined to the cell layer lining the oesophagus and could to be removed by the very non-invasive process of endoscopic resection. A first resection was carried out in early December and, since some of the cancerous cells proved stubborn, I had a second resection four months later. All subsequent biopsies proved normal and exactly a year after taking part in the trial I felt confident enough to organise another family lunch to celebrate.
My brother came to that lunch but wouldn’t eat much. He wasn’t feeling well, had digestive problems and was about to visit his GP. This led to a hospital referral where initial tests and scans showed his symptoms were caused by a blocked bile duct. Further scans brought the bad news that the blockage was caused by pressure from a pancreatic tumour. His symptoms were treated by fitting a biliary stent and he was told it was likely that the tumour could be surgically removed. Then, after waiting for further scans, he was given the shattering news that his tumour was inoperable as it was too closely associated with blood vessels. This, he told me later, was the very worst moment of his illness, despite all that was to follow. It was a relief when in December 2018 he finally began chemotherapy, intended to precede radiotherapy, and he signed up for a trial designed to test the effects of different combinations of treatment (SCALOP-2). I think he felt that at least something was being done to hit back at the cancer and perhaps the trial would help someone in the future.