Sima Davarian 36, Plymouth
"I was 34 when I was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer in September 2015.
"Before my diagnosis, I was pregnant and hadn’t really had any symptoms, but the main reason I went to my GP was a one-off instance of bleeding from my bottom. It is hard to know if I was having any other symptoms at the time because of my pregnancy, but I certainly didn’t have digestive problems or constipation.
"At the doctors, my GP listened to me very carefully and asked me about the bleeding. Despite being pregnant and the fact she could have put it down to haemorrhoids, she asked me questions before examining me. She took it very seriously but didn’t make me feel alarmed. It was an uncomfortable experience and she didn’t seem satisfied with it. She said the best thing to do was to refer me to the hospital because ‘they had more sophisticated equipment’ and ‘there were little bits of tissue coming away’ and she wasn’t certain of what it was at all. I was then referred by my GP on a two week referral and I saw a consultant who took a biopsy at an outpatient’s appointment. Eleven days later I returned and was diagnosed whilst at 35 weeks pregnant.
"It was then decided I would give birth by caesarean section five days later to avoid things becoming mixed up in a vaginal delivery. At this point the consultant told me that I would require major surgery, but it wasn’t until I had a CT scan (a CT colonography) and an MRI scan two weeks after giving birth that I knew the extent of the cancer and the treatment plan.
"Thankfully I had one tumour that hadn’t spread. But due to the position of the tumour I was told I would need a procedure to remove it and that a permanent colostomy was necessary. I was given the choice of pelvic radiotherapy, which I eventually took, despite the devastating side effects of the menopause and subsequent infertility.
I experienced the most joyful time of my life alongside the most terrible. If it weren’t for my beautiful daughter and the support of my family I don’t know how I would have got through the ordeal.
"I had a short course of radiotherapy and an abdominal perineal resection six weeks post birth. This was followed by chemotherapy as my staging was T3 N2 M0.I struggled with low immunity in the year following the end of my chemotherapy treatment, as well as coping with a new stoma and the side effects of radiotherapy. The cancer did not spread but some cells were present in 4/16 lymph nodes involved in the resected area.
"I experienced the most joyful time of my life alongside the most terrible. If it weren’t for my beautiful daughter and the support of my family I don’t know how I would have got through the ordeal.
"Nearly two years on, my pace of life is slower and I have relinquished many aspects of my career which I loved, but the pace of which I cannot maintain right now. I am incredibly grateful to be alive. I enjoy time with my family and friends and cherish simple things like cups of tea with my mum - something I never had time for before cancer and before my daughter was here. I try to appreciate the world around me but I wouldn’t say I have fully recovered physically or mentally yet. Life is different and I have surprised myself with what I have endured and the strength I have been capable of. But then I think some people have less than me and wouldn’t have had the chance to receive free healthcare to save their life and I can’t complain. I consider myself to be very lucky to be here."
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