Beating bowel cancer together

Reginald Bull, 83 from Hampshire

I was diagnosed with stage 1 bowel cancer in December 1988, aged 53.

In early 1988, I noticed blood and mucus in my poo, severe weight loss and a lack of energy. I went to my GP four times about my symptoms, which were getting worse. This wasn’t a good experience for me, as although I thought these were signs of bowel cancer, they didn’t take any notice of my symptoms. The first GP said it was haemorrhoids, the second said I was over-anxious and worrying too much and the third said if the symptoms I had were bowel cancer, then he too had bowel cancer.

The fourth GP examined me at the insistence of my wife and immediately referred me to a consultant. The consultant also didn’t think I had bowel cancer, but nevertheless referred me for a barium x-ray. After a specialist examined the results they confirmed a malignant tumour in my bowel.  

To help with my negative thoughts after surgery I returned to my love of oil painting, to express my feelings through my art.

I had surgery to remove the tumour in January 1989, which went extremely well. Between being diagnosed and having surgery, I didn’t have much time to consider that maybe I wouldn’t survive. Instead I was content in that finally something positive was being done.

For months following my surgery, the fear of cancer returning occupied my thoughts constantly. I didn’t have any options for after-care, like sharing my fears with others, so I had to seek this privately. I believe that this after-care is as important as the whole surgery procedure, and a positive attitude is very important, if it’s possible.

To help with my negative thoughts after surgery I returned to my love of oil painting, to express my feelings through my art. Since then, my life has been extremely good. I now enjoy a healthy lifestyle, full of outdoor and indoor activities like motor-homing, oil-painting, reading and gardening. I’ve had regular colonoscopies every five years ever since.

My advice to anyone who suspects they may have bowel cancer because of symptoms they’re having is to explain this to their GP and if they don’t get a referral, insist on one. It could be a life saver.

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