A heartbroken widow is appealing for people to be vigilant about the common but rarely talked about cancer that killed her husband.
In December 2016, George Suttie, from Forfar, died 16 months after he was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. His wife Janice is now raising awareness of the disease which affects 8,000 people a year.
She said: “When we got the diagnosis, this genuinely poleaxed us. George’s death was devastating for our small family and close friends.
“It is the sixth most common cancer in the UK, yet we never hear of it.
“In order to reduce death from this type of cancer, early diagnosis is a must.
“For many people, like George, they think they are very fit and healthy, but this is going on in the background with little side effects.
“I would appeal to people to get any possible symptoms checked out as early as possible because this disease can be stopped if caught early enough.”
Sadly for George, an electrician who was 64 when he died, the cancer wasn’t caught early enough. Symptoms of the disease include difficulty swallowing, persistent indigestion or heartburn, bringing up food soon after eating and loss of appetite and weight loss.
Anyone who has swallowing difficulties, heartburn on most days for three weeks or more or who has any other unusual or persistent symptoms is advised to contact their GP.
The symptoms can be caused by several conditions and in many cases won’t be caused by cancer.
Janice is now raising awareness of the cancer and completed the The Half DRAM – Dundee Running Adventure Marathon – on Sunday in memory of her husband.
She was hoping to raise £640 for Ochre, a charity formed to promote awareness of oesophageal cancer among the public, professionals, politicians and patients – but in fact she has already exceeded the £3,300 mark with more money still coming in.
Janice said: “I wanted to raise money to promote awareness of oesophageal cancer because we hadn’t really heard about it before George was diagnosed.
“He’d been going back and forward to the doctor with what he thought was heartburn. It was only after he was given a scan that we were given the devastating news that he had cancer.
“George was fit and healthy at the time. He didn’t feel unwell and was working and exercising.
“Chemotherapy treatment was started very soon after the diagnosis. Sadly, it didn’t work and a second session was also unsuccessful.
“After this George was offered clinical trials at the Beatson Institute but his condition deteriorated rapidly.
“George became very ill and he died on December 9, 2016, around 16 months after he was diagnosed.
“Because he didn’t have many symptoms and we didn’t know what to look out for, George’s cancer was very advanced by the time he was diagnosed.
“However, I have since known of people who have received an earlier diagnosis and have been given treatment that has saved their lives.
“It’s crucial that people get any symptoms checked out. Any difficulty in swallowing or ongoing indigestion needs checked out or any prolonged coughing.”
Janice said that George’s death had a devastating affect on her and she really struggled to come terms with his death.
She said: “I’m still struggling to be honest but I knew that I wanted to do something to highlight this illness.
“George would be so proud of what I have achieved and I’m delighted.”