Tracy Smith, 46 from Caerphilly
It was during my third pregnancy at 33 years old that I noticed a very uncomfortable pile. I had various creams, which made it just about bearable. Fast forward two years and I was still experiencing pain from it. It was very uncomfortable and so I went back to my GP and pushed for a referral to remove it.
The GP wasn’t that supportive and still pushed for more creams, however I was firm and eventually I was referred. During the procedure to remove the pile, the consultant recommended that it’s better to have day surgery for this as it would very uncomfortable to continue. It was a Friday of a bank holiday weekend, and I was referred for day surgery on the Tuesday. I was surprised at how quick he wanted to do it, I was thinking it would take a few weeks.
On the Tuesday, the surgeon said it wasn’t a pile and that he was 95% sure it was bowel cancer. He didn’t even have the results from the biopsy yet but he said he was ‘never wrong’. A few weeks later, we got the results and he was right, I did have bowel cancer.
I didn’t really have any symptoms of bowel cancer. I was tired all the time, but at the time I was a busy mum of three young children, I worked 50-60 hours a week and my husband was away for work for half the year. I’m not surprised I was tired, and I certainly didn’t put it down to cancer.
Even though I was going back and forth to the GP for two years, the cancer had not spread. My lymph nodes were inflamed and so at surgery they removed 12 lymph nodes. I had further chemotherapy and have been in remission since.
It was my oncologist that pushed me to have genetic testing, as it’s unusual to have bowel cancer at such a young age. A few months after my diagnosis I was tested for Lynch syndrome and the results came back positive. My family were then tested.
My sisters have Lynch syndrome, one of them died from bowel cancer at 23 years old at around the same time I was diagnosed.
My dad has Lynch syndrome and has prostate cancer, his brothers and sisters all have the genetic condition too. One of his sisters has had various cancers, including bowel cancer, kidney cancer and skin cancer. My dad’s other sister has been diagnosed with Lymphoma. Their mum had Lynch syndrome and womb cancer. Apart from one of my dad’s sisters none of them have had bowel cancer. My auntie’s son had Lynch syndrome and he died from bowel cancer years before I was diagnosed.
My sisters have Lynch syndrome, one of them died from bowel cancer at 23 years old at around the same time I was diagnosed. My middle sister has two children, and one of them has been diagnosed with Lynch syndrome. I have three children, two of them are old enough to be tested for Lynch syndrome and one of them has it. My other son is 16 years old now and will have the test shortly. My son who has Lynch syndrome has one child, and when she’s older she’ll be tested too.
Time to Test campaign
Lynch syndrome is a genetic condition that dramatically increases the risk of bowel cancer to up to 80%, as well as many other cancers.
We want everyone to be tested for the condition at diagnosis of bowel cancer. It’s vital patients are tested, so they can take steps to reduce their chance of dying from bowel cancer.
Sadly, our research shows that no health board in Wales is testing for the condition. We’ve been campaigning through our “Time to Test” campaign to make real change happen.