Paul Jenkins, Dorset
I was 52 when I was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
My story starts in late October 2015 when I felt a dull achy pain just beneath my right lower rib. It was not an acute pain that you may have with a bruised rib or pulled muscle, rather a background pain you might experience with the early onset of toothache. Most folk would probably have ignored it and I could easily have done the same had it not been for the fact I was losing weight, which I could not explain, especially as I was not at the time actively engaged pursuing my love of sea kayaking. I had no other symptoms.
I went to see my GP who referred me for an ultrasound scan, which found I had a thickening of the gall bladder. I was still losing weight and still had the dull achy pain. My GP arranged a two week referral for me to see a consultant.
My hospital appointment in December 2015 revealed no apparent issues or indeed any explanation on why I was losing weight. I was referred for a gastroscopy and abdominal CT scan. The gastroscopy revealed no issues for concern.
However the day after my abdominal CT scan I was contacted and asked if I was able to attend an appointment to see the consultant two days before Christmas Eve 2015. My wife accompanied me into the consultant’s room. I had suspicions I was going to be given some bad news, as in addition to the consultant, there was a senior nurse practitioner and two other nurses in the room. The room atmosphere felt a little ‘heavy’ and rather than expecting to be told, ‘we are going to have to remove your gall bladder’, I was caringly and sympathetically told by the consultant, ‘we have found something on your ascending colon, it may be a polyp or something more sinister’.
With my enquiring mind racing ‘off the scale’, I asked what the size of this ‘something’ may be and learnt it was about four and a half centimetres though it appeared contained. With tear filled eyes I was led by the very caring and supportive senior nurse practitioner to have a blood test, while she went to arrange appointments for me to have a CT scan of my chest (to check there was nothing sinister in my lungs) and a colonoscopy.
I had my chest CT scan and colonoscopy early January 2016. I was informed my chest CT scan was clear. However my colonoscopy confirmed that the four and a half centimetre mass on my ascending colon was indeed cancer. I was informed I would have a four hour operation early February 2016 to remove my ascending colon and my gall bladder. You might say, ‘two for the price of one’.
Post-operative tests classified my cancer as stage one. The cancer had not spread to any of the 20 lymph nodes and I did not need chemotherapy. The thickening of the gall bladder was purely coincidental and not related to the cancer.
The NHS medical teams were absolutely fantastic. They looked after me from beginning to end and continue to do so during my on-going surveillance.
I hope my story has highlighted the importance of going to see your GP at the first sign you think or know something is not right. I am certainly pleased I did!!
As part of my third and final year of surveillance, I have just had a full body CT scan which I am pleased to say was clear and there were no signs of recurrence. My carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) blood marker test was also normal.
I’m now looking forward to my next milestone in 2021, which will be five years since my diagnosis and the point at which the risk of recurrence is no more likely than the risk associated with someone who has never had cancer before.
The NHS medical teams were absolutely fantastic. They looked after me from beginning to end