Karen Mooney, 55 from Moira, Northern Ireland
“I was 16 when mum died from bowel cancer. She was only 49 and had cancer for two years which unfortunately spread from her bowel to her liver. Things have changed so much since then and there is greater awareness of symptoms now. Mum wouldn’t have known the symptoms to look out for and tell your GP about as soon as possible. Also, in those days you didn’t talk about it, it was the era of the stiff upper lip.
"Losing mum had a huge impact on our family. I had an 18-year-old brother, a four-year-old sister and an eight-year-old brother and growing up without a mother was difficult. I was ill-equipped to deal with it and when my friends were out at nightclubs, I was at home ironing or doing the shopping. I grew up quite quickly.
"At 22, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and had to retire from my job a few years ago. I loved the training aspect of my job, so I used my skills to deliver health awareness training on breast cancer, cervical cancer and bowel screening through the Women’s Resource Development Agency.
"I noticed that in the bowel cancer sessions the groups weren’t engaging, so I decided to volunteer with Bowel Cancer UK to help out. My father passed away in January 2016 and afterwards I started to write poetry and wrote a collection about towns in the Ards Peninsula.
"Now I use poetry at the bowel cancer awareness sessions which helps people to engage more. The people who come to the groups don’t want to be left feeling down and the poetry gives them a lift and makes them more receptive. Afterwards, they often say how they suspected they had symptoms.
"But there is a reluctance to submit to the examination which puts some off going to the doctor. However, the process has improved over the years — it’s less uncomfortable and your dignity is protected much more, too.
"My message is to please try not to be worried as you could literally die of embarrassment if you don’t go and get checked out.
"Among the older generation in particular, who are at the highest risk, there seems to be this profound embarrassment. The use of poetry, though, does help spark off important discussions among this age group about their concerns.
"Anyone who has symptoms should go to see their doctor straight away.”
Volunteer with us
Join us and help raise awareness of bowel cancer up and down the country! If you’ve been affected by bowel cancer, why not become one of our awareness volunteers and give talks about the disease to community groups and workplaces.
The talks raise awareness of signs and symptoms, risk factors and screening as well as highlighting the volunteers own experience.
You can be located anywhere in the UK and our volunteers include people of all ages. A full day's training is given with plenty of time to practice the presentation, and we will support you every step of the way. We ask for a commitment of one event per month and you must be comfortable speaking in public.
Find out more about volunteering for Bowel Cancer UK.
My message is to please try not to be worried as you could literally die of embarrassment if you don’t go and get checked out.