Neil Barker, 55 from Peterborough
I was diagnosed with stage two bowel cancer in July 2003 when I was 41 years old.
I already had Crohn’s Disease which was diagnosed in 1993. The symptoms are very similar to bowel cancer, and over the years experienced flare up’s with blood in poo, weight loss and blockages that cause extreme discomfort. I just thought it was the IBD getting worse.
I mentioned this when attending a routine appointment with my Gastroentrology team at my local hospital who said I was due a colonoscopy. I knew there was a risk of me being diagnosed with bowel cancer due to Crohns, but the hospital was monitoring me so I felt in good hands. The colonoscopy revealed a colon Stricture which the camera couldn’t get past and a subsequent CT scan showed a tumour.
There really is no such thing as a silly question
When I was diagnosed with bowel cancer, I had surgery to have my colon and anus removed, which has left me with a permanent ileostomy. I then had six months of chemo punctuated by having a brain tumour identified and successfully removed, luckily this was not connected to bowel cancer.
I actually feel much better since my bowel cancer diagnosis. Whilst Crohn’s is incurable, since my operation to remove my bowel and rectum, my symptoms are much less severe. Every cloud and all that!
My father died from bowel cancer a month after being diagnosed in 2010 aged 74 apparently with few symptoms.
In 2016 I heard about Lynch syndrome from my sister in the States, I mentioned this to my GP who thought it worth looking into given my family history and he arranged an appointment with the genetics team at Addenbrookes. They took my family history and tested a sample from my tumour. A few months later the test results came back negative.
What I’ve learned from all this is to keep routine hospital appointments, ask questions and get symptoms checked out. There really is no such thing as a silly question. It could save your life!