Amy Upshall, 32 from Poole
"I was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer in December 2017, shortly after my 32nd birthday.
"About three to four years ago, I noticed blood in my stools and went to the GP but this was dismissed as piles without much of an investigation. I did explain that my granddad and great granddad both died from the disease, but this was not taken into consideration. They referred me for a blood test to check for anaemia.
"I later experienced stomach and lower back pain and went back to the GP. Again this was dismissed to be anything but IBS.
"In November 2017, I lost a huge amount of blood from my rectum. It was very early in the morning and wasn’t too sure what was happening and got very disorientated. I went back to bed but continued to bleed, at 7am I went to the toilet and collapsed. My husband, unaware of what was happening heard a thump in the bathroom. I was unconscious and having a seizure.
"He put me in the recovery position and phoned for an ambulance. They tried to stabilise me as I kept going in and out of consciousness, and I was still losing blood. They took me to Poole Hospital, where I stayed for two nights, but later discharged. However they did book me for a flexi-sigmoidoscopy but not until January 2018.
I did explain that my granddad and great granddad both died from the disease, but this was not taken into consideration.
"A month later in December, I had my second major bleed. We were on holiday in Bognor Regis with our two young child. My husband rushed us all to Chichester Hospital instead of waiting for an ambulance. When we arrived, they gave me a blood transfusion as my blood levels were very low. I found out later that I had a similar blood count at Poole Hospital but didn’t need a transfusion - I guess they were very low on beds!
"I stayed at the hospital for three nights - over my birthday – but after more tests we still didn’t know why I was bleeding so much. It was decided that it would be best to wait for my flexi-sigmoidoscopy, which was booked one to two weeks later.
"About a week after being discharged from hospital, I had horrendous pains in my stomach. I went back to Poole Hospital and had MRI and CT scans. I was then diagnosed with bowel cancer, which had perforated the bowel. I was being poisoned from the inside, which I was I was in so much pain. I was rushed straight into an emergency six hour operation. They removed the tumour and a large section of my lower bowel.
"I’m now having chemotherapy – I have a three week cycle of IV drips and two weeks of tablets with one week off. The IV drip knocked me for six. Immediately afterwards, I have trouble standing without my legs giving way. Other side effects include: stabbing pains in my eyes, tingling in my fingers, feet and other extremities, nausea, fatigue, mouth sores, sensitive teeth, cramping, loss of appetite, extremes in temperature and feeling of my throat closing up.
"The chemo tablets cause fatigue, mouth ulcers, sore skin on feet and hands and sensitivity to the light.
"It has been a bit of a whirlwind since my diagnosis. Due to the perforation of my bowel, we didn’t really have a chance to deal with the shock of being diagnosed with cancer for long before I was being rushed into hospital for a lifesaving operation.
I was then diagnosed with bowel cancer, which had perforated the bowel. I was being poisoned from the inside, which I was I was in so much pain.
"Since having chemotherapy I am always tired. It means that I can’t get on with my normal family life. Playing games and going out with my husband and children is now very difficult. I can’t do what I used to like going out for walks, cycling and swimming. It is now a real struggle.
"We had snow last winter, which is very rare down here in Poole and I wasn’t able to get out in it with the kids as the cold caused my fingers and toes to tingle, which is very painful for me. Also the cold caused me to have the feeling of my throat closing up, so it meant I missed out on all of the snow fun.
"I can’t go out in direct sunlight for long as my skin is so sensitive now. I love the sun and so we aren’t able to go on a summer holiday this year.
"Me and my friends and family took part in Race For Life. It was a very emotional day for me, I cried tears of happiness when I crossed the finish line. The love and support I have from these wonderful people is never ending."
But we’re leading change
Never Too Young is leading change for younger bowel cancer patients. Every year 2,500 younger people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK. Our research has shown that younger bowel cancer patients have a very different experience of diagnosis, treatment and care.
What are we calling for?
- Improved clinical guidance and practice on bowel cancer in younger people
- Improved identification of people with genetic conditions and access to surveillance screening
- Improved information for younger people on bowel cancer symptoms