Louisa & Lisa’s Oesophageal Cancer Story
Louisa Gantley lost her mum Lisa to oesophageal cancer in November 2019. She is sharing her mum’s experience to help raise awareness of the symptoms and to encourage others to push for answers and seek a second opinion.
“Our Mum Lisa was much loved by her family and friends, she was a kind, caring mum who absolutely adored and was adored by her grandchildren. Despite her hard life and the many challenges she faced from a young age right through to adulthood, she approached life with a strong, can-do attitude. Mum was a hard worker and had great determination to make her life one full of happiness and stability.
Unfortunately, this was taken away from her in September 2019, when she became very ill. In hindsight, she had been sick for a lot longer than that. After one of many trips to the doctor of mum complaining of being unable to swallow and chest pain. She was once again told she had a chest infection and was sent home with antibiotics. Now, mum cared deeply for her young grandchildren so she would never let us visit when she was sick, but after messaging mum and her telling us of yet another dose of antibiotics (that she couldn’t swallow) and that she hadn’t eaten for a week, my sister made the decision to call an ambulance and mum was admitted to hospital.
After one week of testing and changing wards throughout Christchurch hospital, she received a dire prognosis of stage 4 Oesophageal cancer. We were told that there was nothing they could do and no treatments could help her as the tumour was too large. She was put straight into palliative care after diagnosis. One week after being sent home by the GP for a chest infection, she was told it was stage 4 cancer with no treatment options. It still breaks mine and my sister’s hearts to think about how a tumour blocking the tube to your stomach can be completely missed.
Following the shock, we decided to take mum home where she wanted to be to see out her last few weeks, we had an early Christmas for her and did all we could to make her as comfortable as possible. Not quite two months after caring for her at home, we decided it was time to get some more help, we took her to Nurse Maude hospice in Merivale and spent the next week sleeping by mum’s side, spending time together in the rose garden and reminding her how loved she was and how we would never let her be forgotten. On the 29th of November 2019 at age 57 and not even 3 months after a terminal cancer diagnosis, mum passed away comfortably in her sleep with her daughters sleeping right next to her. The hole she has left behind is huge and the hurt is unimaginable.
I was unsure if our story would help and I was unsure what advice I could give but I would love to share one very important message that I have taken from our beautiful mum’s passing. The importance of pushing for further testing, if you don’t feel at peace with your GP’s decision. If you’re having frequent problems with chest pain and difficulty swallowing and you’re just being sent away with antibiotics, get a second opinion! Even a third and fourth if you’re not being listened to. Never let yourself go unheard and dismissed like our mum was. If oesophageal cancer is found early, survival rate is higher and you could have more time, I know mum would have done anything for just that. More time.”