Cleveleys dad given 'months left to live' after gruelling three-year battle against oesophageal cancer
A devoted dad, husband and former supermarket manager has been told by doctors he has just months left to live, after battling oesophageal cancer since 2018.
Chris Peachey, 38, of Clegg Avenue in Cleveleys, was told by doctors last week that there was "nothing more that could be done" for him, after surviving bouts of sepsis, pneumonia, and a staggering four diagnoses of oesophageal cancer.
Chris, dad to Daisy, 11, Oscar, one, and stepdad to Leah, 18, is no longer able to have chemotherapy, radiotherapy or any other surgeries - his body is too weak.
His cancer diagnoses resulted in the removal of his voice box and a full neck dissection. He breathes and is fed through a stoma, and his young family will never hear his voice again.
Before his voice was lost, Chris married wife Lisa, who he met six years ago, at The Villa in Wrea Green in October 2020.
The couple wanted to get married, despite limited guest numbers due to the lockdown, so Lisa could hear Chris say his wedding vows.
Lisa, 36, a teacher, explained how his condition had deteriorated over the last few months, and how their family are now cherishing every moment they have left together.
"This has blown our entire world apart. Chris wasn't a smoker and had no symptoms and it wasn't something he was born with. But acid reflux had damaged his oesophagus - because of his age they dismissed it and didn't put a camera down until it was too late," she said.
"Chris had heartburn for around 15 years, and doctors kept giving him all these different antacids. But he'd started getting a burning sensation when he'd had a drink or bits of food getting stuck.
"So a locum doctor sent him urgently for a gastroscopy in March 2018, and then 10 days later we were told he had oesophageal cancer.
"Chris was a manager for Sainsbury's, and he'd been offered chemotherapy and radiotherapy but they told us the only way forward would be an oesophagectomy. They removed the whole oesophagus in July 2018 in Manchester.
"It was up to a year's recovery for that operation. He was in hospital afterwards for about a month, and they sent him home on a Friday.
"But then over that weekend he was really poorly, he couldn't breathe, it was awful. So he was sent back to the Vic on the Sunday. He'd got sepsis through a massive wound in his side, and ended up with pneumonia on his lungs. He was in hospital for a week before he recovered."
After recovering from a major operation, sepsis, and pneumonia, Chris was sent home to recover. Doctors told him there was no need for any post-operation chemotherapy, so he spent the next few months at home with his family.
But in October 2018, Lisa noticed Chris had started to deteriorate again. He became more tired, and had a general feeling of being unwell.
She contacted Chris' GI nurse in Manchester with her concerns, who agreed to do a CT scan one morning in November. The same day, the family received the devastating news the cancer had returned, and had spread to Chris' neck.
"That was like a whirlwind," Lisa continued.
"We just asked to be left alone over Christmas, to get our heads around it and let the kids have their Christmas.
"In January 2019 Chris had a neck dissection. That literally means removing everything apart from the structure which holds it together. All the tissue, organs, lymph nodes, everything they could remove, they did.
"He was fine after that, believe it or not, he recovered from it. They gave him six months of post-op chemo.
"I found out I was pregnant with Oscar in the March, and he started his chemo in April. So we went through all of that, and he finished in September.
"After that they said they would keep an eye on him with three-monthly scans. So in January 2020, they saw a little bit of thickening on his scan.
"But they said they weren't overly concerned, so we left it and then obviously we went into lockdown and Chris went into shielding in March.
"We were sat in the garden one day and he kept having to clear his throat, and his voice was very croaky. Three weeks later, it still hadn't gone.
"So I got in touch with the oncologist, and we managed to get an appointment face-to-face, which was very difficult during lockdown.
"He agreed to do another gastroscopy to see if anything was going on, and they found more thickening again."
Two weeks later, doctors performed a nasendoscopy, a camera through the nose into the throat, and discovered that Chris' vocal chords were paralysed on one side.
After Chris' oesophagectomy the year before, a tiny part was left behind to join to his stomach, to create a new oesophagus - but that small part had still held cancer cells.
The cells had spread up to his throat, into his larynx (his voice box) and pharynx, the muscle-lined space that connects the nose and mouth.
Doctors weren't sure if they could operate due the sheer enormity of the procedure, so Chris went through another gruelling six months of chemotherapy.
But ultimately, it was decided he should have his voice box removed and the whole of his throat reconstructed. The 18-hour-long procedure meant Chris had to re-learn to eat and drink, and would never be able to speak to his wife and children again.
The couple now communicate through lip-reading, which in a twist of fate, Lisa had learned as a child due to hearing problems.
Lisa continued: "It was completely life-changing for him, but it was a no-brainer really. Our children are young, and we had just got married.
"We got married in lockdown because we knew after this operation we would never speak again, and I wanted to hear him say our wedding vows.
"On December 3 he had his operation, and spent a week in intensive care afterwards. I couldn't be with him because of Covid. Honestly, I was sat up all day and all night, it was just horrendous."
Chris had an open stoma fitted during the operation, which he has used to breathe through and eat a liquid diet through ever since.
He came home two days before Christmas 2020, and Lisa had to quickly adapt to her new life as a full-time carer, learning how to administer his medication, feed him, and tackle any potential emergencies.
Complications with his stoma saw a laryngectomy tube fitted, but towards the end of January this year, Chris stopped being able to eat or drink properly.
He couldn't swallow, so last month he had to have another gastroscopy and biopsies taken.
"They told us after that they had found 'suspicious swellings,' so we knew straight away after that," Lisa said.
"They rang us and told us the cancer was back, but that was it now. There was nothing else they could do.
"Because he's so weak, he can't have chemo or radiotherapy, and there are no more surgeries.
"Chris' friends are trying to raise money for him to look at alternative therapies, physio, anything more we can do for him to help him become a bit more mobile and get him up and about.
"We've only known a week, so there are probably loads of things we don't know about yet, and everybody's on board with it trying to see if there's anything else we can do.
"They told me he has months left to live on the phone, so we're just looking at time now really. Anything that can give us that little bit more time together."
A crowdfunding page has bee set up to fund alternative treatments for Chris. You can donate here.
Signs and symptoms of oesophageal cancer:
The oesophagus connects your mouth to your stomach.
There are many possible symptoms of oesophageal cancer, but they might be difficult to spot. Some may include:
> having problems swallowing (dysphagia)
> feeling or being sick
> heartburn or acid reflux
> symptoms of indigestion
> 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
If you have another condition, such as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, you may get symptoms like these regularly, according to the NHS.