Chris Riley – West Yorkshire, England
I began feeling strange in Nov 2019. I started having random panic attacks and feeling generally uneasy and very down, which was entirely out of character for me. After struggling for a few more weeks, I went to see my general practitioner. My doctor listened as I explained my symptoms and gave me some anti-depressants. The tablets seemed to stop the panic attacks and calm my anxiety, but they never thoroughly disappeared, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. A couple of months passed, and I started to get some sharp pain when swallowing. I was also struggling to swallow, and this lead to me being sick when I ate. I presumed this was a stomach ulcer, so I went back to my doctor, and they gave me some stomach acid suppressants to clear up a possible ulcer. The course was 28 days, and once this time had passed and the pain had worsened, I went back to get a higher dose. Again 28 more days went by, and things were not improving at all. The next time I went in to see my doctor, they referred me for an endoscopy as things were getting worse. I went for my endoscopy on August 11, 2020, and they discovered a heavily ulcerated area of my stomach and an 8-centimeter tumor. Biopsies were taken, and I stayed in the hospital overnight. The next day following a CT scan, I was diagnosed with stage 4 gastric cancer and told to expect ‘months to one year to live.’
I began Palliative EOX chemotherapy at the end of August 2020, and I had such a bad reaction to the first cycle that I decided to stop. I thought that if I only had a short amount of time left to live, I would rather spend my time doing things I enjoy.
My condition deteriorated over the next few months, and I was in lots of pain. I began to struggle to lie down due to intense back pain and the sickness when eating returned.
Despite making significant dietary changes, searching for alternative treatments, and trying immunotherapy (that didn’t work for me), I reluctantly decided to go back on chemotherapy out of desperation. I had a new oncologist at St. James Hospital Leeds, and they removed Epirubicin from my chemo regime and just gave me 80% strength Oxaliplatin and Capecitabine.
I had a fantastic response to this chemo, and my scan after three cycles showed a two-third reduction at all the sites (stomach, liver, and abdominal nodes). I was made up and proceeded to finish my remaining three cycles before being told I could take a break from the treatment and go on ‘watch and wait.’ I didn’t enjoy waiting as I wanted to carry on treatment and beat this cancer.
In June 2021, I went to London and privately paid for a Nano Knife procedure on my liver. The process would get rid of what was left of the tumors there and clear my liver. The procedure was performed in early June 2021 and was successful. I then went back on chemotherapy for three more cycles of 80% OxCap and my latest scan has shown pretty much a complete response to the treatment!
I have decided to stay on Capecitabine tablets alone for three more cycles to clear anything that might have been missed and hopefully prevent any reoccurrence. After the subsequent three cycles, I will have a scan to check, and if I’m still in complete remission, I can choose to end treatment if I wish.
Due to how severe my diagnosis was, they will probably never tell me I’m ‘cured’ or cancer-free, but as long as my scans stay clear and don’t show anything growing, that’s all that counts! I’m now looking to get my life back to some normality after a whirlwind of a year. I look forward to living each day with gratitude and to its fullest.