Chris Reynolds, Middlesex
I was diagnosed with stage two bowel cancer in April 2018 at 73 years old.
Since I was 60 years old, I’ve always partaken in the bowel cancer screening test when I received it in the post for free every two years. Therefore, when I saw it come through the letter box last year I didn’t think twice before completing it and sending it off. After all, it only takes a few mins to do. I didn’t have any symptoms so I wasn’t worried.
However, I received a letter asking me to attend a colonoscopy at my local hospital as my results were abnormal. My daughter Beth came with me and after the procedure, the consultant said three words: you have cancer.
For the first, and hopefully last time, I saw Beth weeping. It’s not something I ever want to see again. I don’t remember anything else from that day. I didn’t take in what the consultant was saying to me. I just heard those three words going round in my head. It was the worst hour of my life.
Three weeks later, I had surgery to remove the tumour and started six months of chemotherapy. If I was having a bad day on treatment, I would take myself to the cinema or to town to take my mind off things. When I was on chemo, my family and friends would ring me all the time asking how I was.
Once I finished chemotherapy I felt absolutely rotten for months, I knew my immune system took a battering from the treatment but know one told me it would be this bad. It would’ve been so helpful and reassuring if a hospital nurse would’ve explained this would happen, but I had no one to talk to. Once the treatment had stopped, I felt like I had been dropped in the middle of the ocean and expected to swim.
I felt so alone during this time. If I had known anyone else going through this, I would’ve popped by their house with a cake to share over a cup of tea. I wouldn’t anyone to feel how alone I felt.
However I only felt like this for a good few months after the chemo stopped, and in April I started to feel much like my old self again. Two of my children live in Australia and New Zealand, and I can’t wait to see them. As soon as I get the green light from my GP, I’ll book my flights. I’ve got four grandchildren over there and I’ve not met one of them! I’ve got everything to live for.
I can’t believe anyone would ignore the screening test. My children would’ve been so angry at me if I didn’t complete it, I could’ve been diagnosed at much later stage. I took part in the screening test for them, so I get to spend more time with them. I don’t want to miss out on seeing my grandchildren grow up.
Bowel cancer screening can save lives.
Bowel cancer screening saves lives but at the moment in some areas of the UK only a third of those who receive a test in the post complete it. Thousands of people are missing out on the best way to detect bowel cancer early when it is easier to treat and there is the greatest chance of survival.
How you can raise awareness of bowel cancer screening:
- Over 60? (or in Scotland and over 50?), take the test when you receive it in the post.
- If you are younger, tell the people over 60 (or over 50 in Scotland) in your life, to take the test