A “fit and healthy” young man has been told he could have just a year left to live after what he thought was heartburn turned out to be a devastating cancer.
Mike Edwards, 29, decided to speak to a doctor last year after he began experiencing a mild cough which wouldn’t go away on its own.
At the time he was told he had heartburn and indigestion, he told the Liverpool Echo.
The footballer and regular gym-goer from Saltney, on the English-Wales border, was prescribed some Gaviscon tablets which appeared to help his symptoms at first.
But on June 17, Mike started experiencing difficulties swallowing which resulted in him being rushed to A&E.
After undergoing a series of tests and having a feeding tube fitted at the Countess Of Chester Hospital, Mike was diagnosed with a type of cancer called adenocarcinoma in his oesophagus.
He was soon referred to Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Liverpool, where the results of further scans confirmed the cancer had also spread to his lymph nodes, stomach and spine.
There, Mike was given the devastating news that the cancer was terminal and he could have just 12 months left to live.
Mike wants to share his story to raise awareness of adenocarcinoma and hopes he can help at least one person to get tested in time to save their life.
Best friend Ashleigh Foster, 28, told the ECHO: “I used to shout at him and say ‘pack it in’ because he had this little cough. It wasn’t a bad cough, it was just like when you’re trying to clear your throat.
“I was telling him to go to the doctors but you don’t you carry on.
“Eventually he went to the doctors and they put it down as heartburn and told him to take Gaviscon and it did subside.”
Ashleigh said Mike was otherwise “fit and healthy” at the time and regularly went to the gym as well as playing as a keeper for Saltney Town Football Club.
She said: “Just over a month ago he was struggling to swallow properly. They actually said it was hernia in his throat and he was waiting on scans but then his throat closed up completely.
“He couldn’t eat anything without choking and he ended up in A&E. He was in for about two days and obviously they did different tests and the results came back and it was a tumour in his throat.”
Around 9,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with oesophageal cancer each year, with cases being the highest in people over the age of 85.
Ashleigh said: “The doctors said it’s rare for people under the age of 50 to have [oesophageal cancer.]
“They literally said to him ‘it’s like getting hit by lightning twice in the same spot on the same day’. That’s how they explained it to him.”
Mike has now started chemotherapy to reduce the size of the tumour so he can eat and drink independently without a feeding tube.
In a bid to help Mike enjoy the time he has left with his family and friends and to ease the financial pressure for him, a fundraising page has been set up.
Ashleigh said: “We’re all trying to be as positive as possible for him. The first goal is to get this feeding tube out – that’s what we’re aiming for. Then we’ll go onto the next thing.
“I’ve never known a person like Mike. He’s the kindest person I’ve ever met.
“He’s so selfless – he will give you the last pound in his pocket. He’s always been the same, even now he’s thinking about me and his mum and his brother.”
Oesophageal cancer symptoms
According to the NHS, there are many possible symptoms of oesophageal cancer, but they might be hard to spot.
They can affect your digestion, such as:
having problems swallowing
feeling or being sick
heartburn or acid reflux
symptoms of indigestion
Other symptoms include:
a cough that is not getting better
a hoarse voice
loss of appetite or losing weight without trying to
feeling tired or having no energy
pain in your throat or the middle of your chest, especially when swallowing.
These symptoms could be related to another condition but it’s important to see a GP if you have:
You’ve lost a noticeable amount of weight over the last 6 months to a year without trying
You have other symptoms of oesophageal that get worse or do not get better after two weeks
You have a condition that causes symptoms with your digestion that are not getting better after two weeks of using your usual treatment