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 a stoma for a year but luckily it was reversed.
"After surgery, I had chemotherapy for six months but suffered from peripheral neuropathy, which has still not gone away. I struggled with the stoma – it affected my relationship with my husband and two children, but also changed the way I felt about my own body.
"I didn't feel attractive with the stoma, although my husband assured me I was, and I did not want my children to know about it or see my body with it. This was difficult as we are usually very open about our bodies, but I just couldn't 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 hated seeing the stoma every day and, at times, it really got me down.
"During chemotherapy I was tired and grumpy, but I wanted to try and carry on as normal as much as possible. I put on a brave face but I think this lead to others forgetting what I was going through, which is what I actually wanted. I would then end up resenting them when they did not make allowances, which was harsh of me but I did not really want to be treated differently.
"I was in my final year of my law degree when all my treatment was happening and managed to complete it despite everything. I have plans of qualifying as a solicitor but I am concerned this will be affected. At the moment I have fully recovered from bowel cancer but the biggest change for me is not knowing what the future holds. 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
At the moment I have fully recovered from bowel cancer but the biggest change for me is not knowing what the future holds.