Jackie Hill, Wales
In 2010 I noticed a change in my bowel habit, but I put it down to the stress of helping my daughter organise her wedding. Gradually the symptoms got worse and I was also bleeding and so I went to the GP, who examined me and referred me for blood tests, but these came back normal.
My symptoms persisted and worsened so I went to see a different GP some months later, who referred me for a sigmoidoscopy and found a tumour. This was in my rectum, so I was given a week of radiotherapy to shrink the tumour to make it more operable.
My side-effects included tiredness and nausea, and my legs ached. It was a very long journey to and from the cancer unit five times a week and this added to my tiredness. The radiotherapy also brought on the menopause, which I was not concerned about except all the symptoms came almost overnight.
My surgery took place directly following the radiotherapy. It was an anterior section, so part of my rectum and sigmoid colon was removed. I was given a temporary loop ileostomy (a stoma I referred to as Buddy!) to allow the join to heal. I struggled with poor absorption of minerals and vitamins during this time, so despite being given dietary advice I lost a lot of weight and condition and became anaemic.
Fortunately, once I had the stoma reversed, these problems subsided very quickly and I was able to stop taking the nutrient tablets. My tumour was graded as stage 3 because it was close to perforating the bowel wall, but no lymph nodes were affected and I did not need follow up chemotherapy.
I did suffer from depression and anxiety during my treatment and I tried counselling. It was very hard to readjust to life after cancer and I couldn’t find a local support group at the time here in North Wales. I just didn’t know anyone who had ever had this disease. I stumbled onto Twitter and found lots of people with bowel cancer who have become great friends.
I had regular follow up appointments, initially thee monthly then six monthly and now yearly. I have a colonoscopy every three years mainly because my brother was found to have polyps in his bowel, which has confirmed a family link. My five year scan was in November 2016, it went well and now I’m technically ‘cured’!
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 are 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
It was very hard to readjust to life after cancer and I couldn’t find a local support group at the time