Beating bowel cancer together

Sophie Williams, Croydon

My husband Chris sadly passed away of bowel cancer three days after we got married in hospital, and only four weeks after he was diagnosed with this disease at the age of 42.

In August 2021 Chris and I attended two beautiful family weddings and his family and friends noticed he wasn’t quite himself. He wasn’t drinking or eating much, felt sick and generally unwell, Chris asked if we could leave early on both occasions, it wasn’t like Chris at all!

He had been speaking with a GP in which he was awaiting a CT scan, which he had on the 1 September 2021 of his abdomen and pelvis. Over the next few days Chris started to feel much worse, he was feeling sick, vomiting, changes in his bowel movements, stiff neck and severe head pain so we attended A&E on three occasions before he was admitted on the 5th.

Whilst an inpatient they were arranging a colonoscopy which took place on the 15th.

During his admission at Croydon University Hospital the doctors were concerned about his scan results and kept talking about his sodium levels being very low and how they were going to control it. He was in and out of intensive care every other day to get his sodium level under control. They then told me that they had found a mass in his pituitary gland, it wasn’t cancerous, but he would need to take tablets for the rest of his life. He was diagnosed with hyponatremia.

We accepted that, I was relieved it wasn’t anything more sinister with his head and we went home on 16 September armed with his new medication but still awaiting the results of his colonoscopy.

At home, Chris was very tired, quite snappy, and agitated. He didn’t believe he should be home, he thought he was too ill. It was a stressful time for us both.

On the 21 September we went back to the hospital for his colonoscopy results, and he was diagnosed with stage T3 bowel cancer and had already spread from the bowel wall.

Chris dealt with this diagnosis well. I feel he was mentally prepared to receive these results, I, on the other hand, did not deal with it as well as he did.

They said it was T3a N2 M1 and that he would either have surgery to remove part of the bowel or have an operation to give him a stoma bag. Chris was adamant he wanted it removed but it was the surgeon who had to assess his case and decide, and the following day he received the call to tell him they would be going ahead with the stoma.

He was very upset about the prospect of having a stoma. He found it quite overwhelming. He was being sick, but when speaking with the hospital they were putting it down to stress. However, Chris was getting worse, he was feeling faint, he couldn’t stand up so I called the hospital and they asked me to bring him in. He was admitted, and he never came home.

Over the next few days since he had been admitted Chris’s health was deteriorating. He started to lose the ability to open his eyes and when opening them manually he was experiencing light sensitivity and blurriness. It was extremely heartbreaking and I was informed if they did not act quickly he may lose his eyesight permanently. They had been testing and taking further scans in which they had sent to various other hospitals for a second opinion as they couldn’t identify what was causing what he was experiencing. To progress further with his diagnosis they performed a lumbar puncture, they were very keen to transfer him to St George’s Hospital in Tooting due to the specialist departments which went ahead a few days later. Chris was quite distressed due to the waiting and just wanted someone to confirm what was happening to him.

Once at St George’s, further tests and scans were given, Chris was given his own private side room and I could be with him at all times. On the 1 October we given the answers we had been anxiously waiting for and were told his cancer had spread rapidly to the base of his skull and spine and was given a prognosis of five months if undergoing radiotherapy and chemotherapy. It was so devastating to be told his cancer was not reversible and any treatment moving forward would only prevent the disease spreading further. Three days later Chris proposed to me after many years together and asked me to make all the arrangements.

The following week Chris commenced radiotherapy at the Royal Marsden in Sutton, but he deteriorated very quickly and it meant that chemotherapy was no longer an option.

I had arranged our wedding for the 15 October, and we got married in hospital whilst I was at his bedside.

Three days later I sat with Chris whilst he took his last breath and he lost his battle with cancer.

I can’t believe I was dancing with him at weddings in August and arranging his funeral in October. There are no words.

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