Bethany Purvis, 37 from Bishop’s Stortford
"In September 2016 I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. For two years on and off I have experienced constipation and diarrhoea with significant rectal bleeding. I spoke to my GP when the symptoms first started but was told that it was probably IBS and anal fissure (a tear or ulcer that develops in the lining of the anal canal). I didn’t think it was serious as my GP just told me that I should try and live with it if I could but to come back if my symptoms got worse, and so I was under the impression nothing would be done unless things got worse.
"In April 2016, I went to A&E with a suspected rectal prolapse and had sigmoidoscopy followed by two colonoscopies. I was diagnosed at stage three bowel cancer as it had spread to six of my lymph nodes. I had surgery to remove the tumour which left me with an ileostomy for a year, which was reversed however after complications a permanent colostomy was formed.
"After surgery, I had chemotherapy for six months but suffered from peripheral neuropathy, which has still not gone away. In November 2017, a CT scan revealed spots on my lungs, which are confirmed to be metastasis. I’m now diagnosed at stage four and have been advised that my cancer is now considered incurable. I am back on chemotherapy in the hope that the treatment will prevent further spread and keep the cancer at bay extending my life.
"I struggle with the stoma – it has affected my relationship with my husband and two children, but also changed the way I feel about my own body.
"I don't feel attractive with the stoma, although my husband assures me I am, and I did not want my children to know about it or see my body with it. This is difficult as we are usually very open about our bodies, but I just didn’t want to get my head around it or accept it. I did not want my family to know how I felt about it therefore I managed to hide my anxieties. I hate seeing the stoma every day and, at times, it really gets me down.
"Chemotherapy makes me tired and grumpy, but I try and carry on as normal as much as possible. I put on a brave face but I think this leads to others forgetting what I am going through, which is what I actually wanted. I then end up resenting them when they do not make allowances, which is harsh of me but I don’t really want to be treated differently.
"I was in my final year of my law degree when I started my treatment and managed to complete it despite everything. I had plans of qualifying as a solicitor but have had to abandon my studies and plans at least for now. The hardest thing for me is not knowing what the future holds, or just how much of a future I might have. I just grab opportunities as they come along; I might have once thought that I have plenty of time to do that another day, but I no longer feel that way."
But we’re leading change
Never Too Young is leading change for younger bowel cancer patients. Every year 2,500 younger people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK. Our research has shown that younger bowel cancer patients have a very different experience of diagnosis, treatment and care.
What are we calling for?
- Improved clinical guidance and practice on bowel cancer in younger people
- Improved identification of people with genetic conditions and access to surveillance screening
- Improved information for younger people on bowel cancer symptoms
Together we can STOP bowel cancer
I’m now diagnosed at stage four and have been advised that my cancer is now considered incurable.