Phil's Story - Oesophageal Cancer

Phil's story

- oesophageal cancer

Phil passed away in Oct 2022, aged just 33. He had only been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer a few months earlier. His wife Mica said it had been a huge shock. 


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In April, Phil was experiencing digestive issues, with symptoms including acid reflux and difficulty swallowing. He was diagnosed with gastritis, but the next month – he vomited blood and went to A&E where he was admitted. Scans and a biopsy confirmed secondary cancer to the liver originating in the oesophagus.

Mica said: “It genuinely didn’t cross my mind that it could be something serious because he was so healthy. But he woke me up in the middle of the night and said “I’ve just vomited blood”. It was out of the blue.

“When the doctor said it was stage four, I went into complete shock – literally and physically, and I felt Phil stiffen next to me and he was trying not to cry. It was like a bomb had been dropped.

“The doctor said ‘I’ve been a doctor for a very long time and I have never seen someone as young as you with cancer like this’”.

Phil, who worked on Learning and Development in the civil service, had always been very sporty and rarely drank. He met Mica online in 2013 and they began dating. They were living in different cities at the time, and saw each other when they could before moving in together.

The couple, who had three daughters - Bella, Mya and Evie - from previous relationships, married in 2016 and Mica gave birth to their daughter Zara in 2019.

Mica said Phil was a brilliant dad: “He loved the family life – he thrived with that. He just has this rapport with children. And he was smart, intelligent, kind, funny. Just such a kind person.

His starting point was to like everyone and he rarely had a bad word to say about anyone.”

Phil started chemotherapy in June and needed to go to stay in hospital for the first two cycles. He had constant nausea and was not able to eat.

He responded better when the chemo changed from oral medication to a syringe pump, and the side effects lessened. He was even looking at a potential phased return to work, until an appointment in October.

“We were hopeful we would find out that the chemotherapy had worked but after four months the oncologist told us the tumours had grown. I didn’t understand that you could have bad news after bad news after bad news.

“Phil was given eight months to live and he quickly said “so this is my last birthday, this will be my last Christmas. Phil was grieving the loss of his future, the loss of his hopes and dreams. I was grieving everything I thought we were working to get to that was suddenly gone.”

“Because we’d had children so young, we were looking forward to seeing them grow up, seeing them develop and we thought our 40s together were going to be so much fun – freedom, holidays, focussing on each other. We were looking forward to that.

“We went from a healthy couple in their early 30s – having fun with a lot to live for and I can just remember seeing him waste away.”

Within days, Phil was hospitalised with sepsis and prescribed antibiotics. Doctors were looking to start immunotherapy treatment but he could not start any other treatment until he recovered. He was allowed home on 21st October but his condition had worsened and the nurses prepared end-of-life care.

Mica said: “I don’t think there’s anything harder than telling your children that a parent is going to die. They did ask questions like “so you won’t get to be a grandad?” and “what about my wedding?” It’s just heartbreaking.”

On 26th October, Phil passed way with Mica holding his hand.

“On the day that he died, it was just the two of us in the room. I held his hand and said “it’s ok, I am here. I love you.”

“I can’t understand still why this happened. I owe it to Phil to live my life fully, I need to live for both of us and the girls.

“As well as raising awareness and money, I want to make this film to support Stand Up To Cancer so people can remember him and speak his name. It will give me comfort.”

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