Beating bowel cancer together

Sophie Shardlow, Nottingham

Sophie shared their story with us in 2022. Sadly Sophie passed away in March 2023. The following article was originally published in May 2022.

I was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer (which later developed to stage 4) in March 2020 at the age of 54.

My symptoms started in February 2020 when I was feeling very faint and tired at a pilates class. After this I visited my GP who tested me for anaemia, then because of my age also asked me to take a stool sample. This fast tracked me for a colonoscopy where a large tumour was found in my ascending colon.

In May 2020, I had open surgery to remove the 20cm tumour however I had a bad reaction to ondansatron during this which caused locked-in syndrome. Locked-in syndrome is a rare neurological disorder characterized by complete paralysis of voluntary muscles, except for those that control the eyes. Ten days in the high dependency unit and I was sent home and recovery went well.

In June 2020 I started capox chemotherapy. However I had a very bad experience of oxaliplatin with an extended slow IV over five plus hours, throat constriction, neuropathy, sickness etc. However I did cope well with capecitabine tablets. My chemotherapy treatment was completed in October 2020.

In 2021, I found a lump in my tummy so my GP referred me to the colorectal consultant and the lump was initial deemed of no concern. However the lump continued to grow and I fainted in the gym.

The GP referred me again and I had a CT scan where I was diagnosed with a large tumour in the mesentery and the liver. The doctor told me that surgery would not be not possible so I have now moved on to trying palliative chemotherapy.

My life has changed since diagnosis. I was the very busy boss of BBC Radio Leicester which I loved and really defined me, but am unable to work now.

Since leaving I have learnt the joy of being at home and having a gentle life. I feel very lucky to have experienced cancer during lockdown. I had no 'fear of missing out' as nobody else was doing anything! I learnt to slow down, relish the moment and I am now closer than I ever was to my family and friends.

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