Malcolm's Story - in his own words

Man playing guitar

Name: Malcolm Peacock

Age: 66

Lives: Andover

Diagnosis: Terminal oesophageal cancer

Coupe stood in front of a painting laughing

Unfortunately, there was a five year lapse in monitoring my Barrett’s oesophagus, no appointments were made, although I should have received one every 2 years and this led to a diagnosis of advanced oesophageal cancer just as COVID-19 arrived. 

Lockdown meant I had to hear the diagnosis alone as my wife was not allowed to the hospital, neither were any friends or family.  It left me totally devastated.  Not only had I developed a lump in my throat meaning I couldn’t swallow, I was emotionally destroyed.  I was given 2-3 months to live, 6 at most.

Next came the offer of treatment.  I was offered chemotherapy but declined at the time.  I hadn’t got my ship in order, far from it.  The genes in my family are such that my mother died aged 96 and my father 79.  I hadn’t intended on going anywhere.  In addition, had I initially accepted the offer of chemo I would have been deemed vulnerable and had to shield due to COVID-19.  That just could not be for me.  I did, however, take radiotherapy.  A scan afterwards revealed that the cancer was stable, however it may already have been – who is to know?

I have come not to entirely believe statistics, because based on the prognosis I was given I might as well have just thrown in the towel then but, almost a year later I am still here, I am enthusiastic and I hold a zest for life. 

When I was offered treatment, I felt that the list of symptoms I might endure was enough to almost put me off entirely.  Whilst these do have to be communicated, it was an extremely negative outlook that was portrayed.  This attitude to life doesn’t sit well with me and I have done my best to adopt a positive attitude and a holistic approach to my diagnosis and to making the most of my life.  I urge anyone to try and take on this attitude, why would you or I want to give up?

Below are a few observations on subjects related to my situation as I see them.  Whilst everyone is different, perhaps there are some snippets here that will resonate with you.

The Internet

You can scour this for ever and a day.  It can consume much of the valuable time you are told you have left, but it won’t change a thing.  There is one person who can change things – that person is you.  Carry on with your life, don’t become consumed in cancer because it will destroy you.  Find a way that is right for you but which allows you to live your life.

Work

I’ve never stopped working.  My work is good for the soul and gives a positive mind set which is crucial at times like this.  I don’t intend to give up work and neither will I allow cancer to take it’s hold.  I will fight like a Zulu warrior, I won’t let it get me!

Fitness

A friend gave me her old pushbike, what a result!  I cycle at least ten miles a day, it’s good for the soul.  I often even cycle to work.

Just a note on swallowing – At times blockages have prevented me from eating or even drinking for 12-16hrs at a time, however I have found that cycling is one of the most successful ways for me to clear this.

Targets

When I was given such an abysmal time-scale I decided to set myself targets.  Being a person who has always loved to forage for mushrooms, nuts and berries in the autumn that was immediately a target that I had to reach.  I also use birthdays, friend’s anniversaries, actually anything that makes me want to reach out and want to be there. 

We have a gardener once a fortnight because my wife has curvature of the spine and rheumatoid arthritis.  This week he planted wallflowers.  I intend to be there to see them flower and smell their fragrance.   I have a wood burner, I’m waiting until I light it to see the flame again. 

Set yourself goals – it will help to banish the doom and gloom you might be led to believe awaits you.

Friends & Acquaintances

Of the latter I have many, the earlier two, C & J, without the support of whom my world would have ended long ago.  They have been and continue to be my rock, I could never find the appropriate words.

Personal Works and Projects

Revel in anything you can create, jobs at home, jobs on your premises or garden.  I need to wake up every morning looking forward to what the day will (or might) give me.  I have so many projects that I definitely don’t have time to die (and neither do I intend to!)

Self

I’ve had to work on myself to get here, I’ve had some horrendous days and equally, my friend C has had to endure those moments too.  I’ve turned the corner to the degree that I don’t really accept that I’ve got cancer.  Whilst I’m fully aware, I know I have to ignore it, forwards and positivity is the only way to go for me.

Calories

Because of my work and because I’m always on the go I need 2500-3000 calories a day.  Advice from the dieticians was that this would only really be achievable now by swapping real meals for prescription calorie drinks.  This wasn’t the right answer for me so I have decided to mix and match.  I have one drink in the morning and one in the evening which gives me 600 calories and is a head start – after which I fashion the rest of my days food.

Food

Food is so important to me, though swallowing can be a nightmare.  It is very much a sharing experience where much fine conversation can be had and which stories, jokes and banter are centred around.  I have found this aspect of my condition so difficult however I have been working on it with some success and I want to try and share it with you.  I hope you will be surprised at what is next. 

We all have different food tastes but, over the coming weeks, I am going to share some of my recipe ideas, all suitable for myself, despite the difficulty in swallowing I have and so hopefully suitable for you too.  I am fully aware that we all have different tastes but hopefully you can either use my ideas or take them and use them as a base to fashion your own meals.  My hope is that, with a bit of work, we can experience some delicious dishes and see that there can be options that work alongside prescription drinks.  Alternatives that taste good, allow you to be creative and enrich your life.

Association with HCUK:

Malcolm is a personal friend of one of the HCUK team.  He is keen to challenge himself and the status quo to enjoy life in the best way he can and he is keen to help and support others by sharing his ideas on staying positive and his tips and recipes to be able to enjoy food.  He wants to work with HCUK to reach others living with oesophageal cancer or those who may have challenges swallowing, a condition called dysphagia.  Malcolm is inspirational and we are loving his inputs and recipes which we are excited to be sharing with you soon!