Beating bowel cancer together

Kamal Marwaha, Leeds

This story has been archived. Read other real life stories here.

I lost my mum (or ma as I like to call her) to bowel cancer, when she was just 62.

Ma was first diagnosed with stage 2 bowel cancer in 2011, on my 21st birthday. She came home and sat us down and explained the doctor had told her she had cancer but that was going to 'kick its butt'. She still made us go out and celebrate my birthday – she loved any excuse to party. Deep down I knew she was hurting, as were we, but she didn't want us to know how she felt so she carried on as normal for a while.

She initially started off having radiotherapy, and then chemotherapy. Over the years the cancer kept going and coming. In 2013 she was referred to the Christie hospital in Manchester. We would go to Manchester once a week for my mum's treatment. She suffered many side effects from the chemotherapy such as a sore mouth, fatigue and nausea.

I went with ma to all her appointments but there was one occasion in 2015 when I couldn't as I had an exam that day but dad still went with her. I had a weird feeling about this appointment and as soon as I'd finished my exam, I called my parents. She just said the cancer hadn't budged but she's not worried and wanted to eat out that evening. My gut told me something wasn't right.

We had the best evening together. Ma was very happy and she wanted to take lots of photos, which my family and I still cherish today. My Ma never told us (her three kids) that the cancer was terminal. My dad told us. She was looking out for us.

It was stage 4 and this time, terminal. She didn't have any other symptoms, apart from weight loss – that was the only reason she went to the GP in the first place.

I was studying full time however I stopped to look after ma for a year. The impact of her diagnosis was massive on our family. I alongside my dad would take over the things she loved such as cooking, as well as the shopping and cleaning.

I looked after her for the years throughout her illness. When she deteriorated she moved downstairs in our house. My dad and I would take it in turns to sleep downstairs with her and look after her throughout the night. On a morning I would wash and dress her, and ensure she was ready for the day.

My life changed dramatically but I would do it all over again. Between her time at home and the hospital, ma was then admitted into St Gemma's Hospice for symptoms management. They were great and looked after her so well. She was never alone.

Ma was an amazing woman. She was a very happy, optimistic and overall a positive person. She was still going to work up until she physically couldn't.

I miss her every day. I am due to get married this year and it breaks my heart knowing that she won't be here to attend my wedding, or see me have kids in the future. We were never ready for her to go; it broke all of our hearts.

I will always remember my graduation. She had left the hospital for the day to attend my graduation – even with her chemo pump attached to her – it was in a cross body shoulder bag. She would refer to it as "my new designer handbag". Her sense of humour was the best.

She died on Wednesday 14 October 2015.

Ma had three sisters and two brothers who miss her every single day, she was the youngest. I am so grateful to have a big family all of whom have supported us throughout. They were by our side every step of the way. When she came home for end of life care she was still the same old bubbly, funny, happy woman. My brother, sister, cad and I miss her dearly.

As the famous quote goes: "She taught me everything, except how to live without her."

But we're improving access to treatment and care for advanced bowel cancer

Nearly 10,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer each year. This is when the cancer has spread to somewhere else in the body, such as the liver or lungs. People with advanced bowel cancer typically have poorer outcomes but access to surgery and drugs can help to extend life and can sometimes be curative.

We're determined to improve survival rates and support for people with advanced bowel cancer. We want to see improved access to high-quality treatment to ensure longer survival and a better quality of life for people, including:

  • increasing survival rates and improving holistic support for patients and their families
  • reducing inequalities in access to potential life-saving liver surgery
  • improving access to cancer drugs based on clinical need and not postcode
  • providing better communications and support for people with palliative and end of life care needs.

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