Geoff’s proactive approach saved his life

Tuesday 6 July, 2021

Geoff was given only a 30% chance of surviving oesophageal cancer. But thanks to his own diligence and the unwavering support of his wife, Jeanette, he’s still here today.

“I now know what it means to say a rollercoaster of emotions because within that first few weeks, we felt every emotion there was,” said Geoff.

At just 48 years of age, Geoff – a former motor mechanic – never suspected he had oesophageal cancer, but thankfully he still took his early symptoms seriously.

“I was eating a sandwich and couldn’t swallow it. Probably a week later it was still no better and I thought ‘there’s something wrong here’.”

That’s when Geoff took himself to the doctor. After a flurry of medical appointments, Geoff and Jeanette received some difficult news.

“They found a 4.5cm tumour in my oesophagus. In the CT scan the oesophagus was basically closed over, there was no hole through it at all,” explained Geoff.

“I was shocked. You never think it’s going to happen to you until it does.”

Geoff and Jeanette didn’t have the heart to break such stressful news to their two boys (aged 14 and 20 at the time) right before Christmas. So, they waited until the new year.

“We never told them the seriousness of it, because when we were told Geoff had a 30% chance of survival, we didn’t want them to have that worry that we had,” said Jeanette.

Geoff and Jeanette with their sons Jesse (left) and Tyler (right) at Jesse's 21st birthday three months after Geoff's surgery.

Geoff endured five weeks of chemotherapy and radiation, and spent almost every day during those weeks travelling for hours to get to his appointments.

But through every appointment and difficult day, Jeanette was there.

“I had Jeanette there with me 100% of the time. She didn’t leave my side other than when I was getting radiation done,” he explained.

Geoff feels lucky to have only experienced a few side effects from his treatment – including a burn on his back from radiation. Then at the end of his treatment, on 5 April 2019, Geoff had his surgery.

“Six days after surgery, they got pathology results back telling me there were no sign of any viable cancer,” said Geoff. But it hasn’t been all smooth sailing since then.

Geoff in hospital after surgery

“I’m still having ongoing symptoms [from the surgery] with sickness every week to two weeks. I have nausea and vomiting that will last for 24–48 hours, so I lose three to four kilos every time it happens,” explained Geoff.

His medical team are still trying to work out the cause of Geoff’s ongoing sickness. Still, Geoff counts his blessings that he’s still here today and has his wife by his side through it all.

“I don’t even want to think about what it would have been like trying to go through that by myself,” shared Geoff.

During Geoff’s treatment, Jeanette reached out to Cancer Council Victoria’s 13 11 20 information and support line and spoke to an experienced nurse.

“They were fantastic on the phone, they sent me out the information that I needed, put me onto what I needed to know, and advised me about what they had on offer,” said Jeanette.

“I’ve since recommended it to a couple of friends who’ve gone through cancer themselves.”

When Jeanette saw Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea advertised this year, she decided she wanted to put her love of cooking to good use and raise money for people affected by cancer through Cancer Council Victoria.

“We just thought it’s a great way to get together,” said Jeanette.

Geoff and Jeanette in December 2018 - just after Geoff was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer.

The Yarra Junction couple decided to postpone their afternoon tea due to COVIDSafe measures introduced in Victoria – after Cancer Council Victoria said they can hold their event whenever it’s convenient.

“We didn’t want to tell some people they couldn’t come, so we want to wait until we can have everyone here, make an afternoon of it and raise as much money as we can,” said Geoff.

Geoff and Jeanette just hope their efforts will help people facing cancer in some way, whether big or small.

“Whether it can benefit families by giving them a weekend away to try and get back to normal, or whether it’s needed for research, it’s not important to us, we’re just happy to help out in any way and raise money for whatever’s needed,” said Geoff.

Geoff and Jeanette also want to spread an important message: if you notice something wrong with your body, get it checked right away.

“They basically told me because I acted so fast it saved my life,” said Geoff. “If I put it off like a normal male puts things off, I wouldn’t still be here.”

If you or someone you know are impacted by cancer, we are here for you.

Please contact our experienced and compassionate cancer nurses on 13 11 20 or at cancervic.org.au/askanurse