Woman given year to live after doctors diagnose her swallowing issues

A “fit” and “healthy” mother-of-three was given months to live after doctors probing her persistent swallowing problems found a “very aggressive cancer” in her throat. Within the space of just a few weeks, the tumour had spread to the lymph nodes of her lungs and doubled in size, leaving her with the “worst prognosis”.

Tracy was diagnosed with throat cancer after suffering regular bouts of dyspepsia that prevented her from swallowing drinks and food.

An endoscopy showed the difficulty in swallowing was caused by a three to five-centimetre tumour in the throat, which doctors diagnosed as oesophageal cancer.

Thinking her symptoms were indicative of acid reflux, the 47-year-old said she was shocked to hear she had an aggressive tumour.

She soon became reliant on a feeding tube after scans revealed her tumour doubled in size in the space of just two weeks.

Subsequent CT scans showed that the tumour had spread to the lymph nodes in her lungs, which are inoperable.

Nearly any cancer can spread to the lungs, leading to extremely poor prognosis for cancer patients. Tracy, for example, was given only 12 to 18 months to live after her lung metastasis was spotted.

She said: “I was a fit, healthy woman, who doesn’t smoke and only drinks socially. The cancer is very aggressive.

“It was five centimetres in size when diagnosed and after six weeks of scans it was around 12 to 15 centimetres.”

Tracy started her first course of chemotherapy in August 2021 to help quell the spread of cancer.

Fortunately, subsequent scans showed that the tumour had shrunk by half, allowing her to come off the feeding tubes.

Despite the reduction in tumour size, the malignancy remained in the lymph nodes on both sides of her lungs.

The mother-of-three later underwent an intensive five-week course of palliative treatment in November 2021, which aims to relieve patients of their symptoms and prolong their life.

In March 2022, a chemoradiotherapy treatment showed Tracy’s tumour had disappeared completely, despite the disease remaining in the lymph nodes of her lungs.

Tracy, from Newport, Wales, said: “I was given the worst prognosis in the world and began preparing myself, my friends and family for not being here anymore.

“It was a massive shock when they said I had a tumour. My doctor said this type of cancer is rare in women my age, it normally affects men who smoke regularly.

“I couldn’t swallow food, drink or even my own spit and had to have a tube fitted for feeding.

“After the tumour in my throat disappeared, I decided I needed to find a new purpose and began exercising every day.

“Getting my life back was a phonic moment. In a sense, I’ve been reborn.”

Tracy’s dogged determination has led her to train for a half marathon in September to fundraise for the Cancer charity Macmillan.

“I know I have to be physically fit and healthy to fight if it does come back, but I’m, going to live my life to the fullest while I still can,” she added.

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