Bela Sanches, 33 from Glasgow
I was diagnosed with stage two bowel cancer in February 2017, aged 31.
In mid-2016 I started having a change in bowel habits, including constipation and diarrhoea, blood in my stools and I was always bloated. I waited a couple of months, but the symptoms were getting worse with time so I decided to go to the GP. Before that I made the mistake of looking up my symptoms online, and it obviously came back with bowel cancer, although I always believed it was something related to inflammatory diseases such as celiac disease or even irritable bowel syndrome. At the time it made me feel very anxious, sad and worried. Google is great for looking up the next place for holidays, booking flights and hotels, but it’s best to stay away from the diagnosis of diseases, since every keyword typed seems to point to cancer or other very serious disease complications. In my situation it was right, but for other people it may be nothing serious. The better option is to always to visit a doctor.
Nowadays, every pain and ache that I feel makes me think that the cancer is back, but I’m hoping that time will heal this constant feeling of fear.
In October 2016 I visited the GP who was very helpful and made a referral to a specialist colorectal consultant. My GP didn’t think it was anything too serious and tried to reassure me, because I was young, healthy, fit and had no family history of bowel cancer. It took around a month and a half to get my colonoscopy, where they found a large polyp that looked like cancer and other small polyps, followed by a CT and MRI scan. This confirmed I had locally advanced bowel cancer, which had spread to my uterus.
During February and March 2017, I had 25 sessions of radiotherapy and chemotherapy tablets to shrink the tumour before my surgery. I was expecting to feel very bad and weak during treatment, but I felt well considering it all, and was able to do almost everything as before. I did feel a bit tired and sore because of the radiotherapy. I also had some urinary symptoms like a constant burning sensation resembling urinary tract infections, but it was due to local inflammation from radiotherapy sessions.
I’ve had two surgeries: the first was a major one on the end of May. That took a lot away from me and I had some complications, and the second was in mid-December 2017, to reverse the temporary ileostomy. For me one of the worst things of all was facing early menopause and never being able to have children. Nevertheless I’m grateful for the amazing team of doctors and nurses that took care of me. Without them I’m sure I wouldn’t be here today to tell my story.
I was young, healthy, fit and had no family history of bowel cancer
Nowadays, every pain and ache that I feel makes me think that the cancer is back, but I’m hoping that time will heal this constant feeling of fear. It’s a lonely place to be, because no one around me really understands how I have changed, both physically and psychologically, after being diagnosed with cancer. Everyone was expecting that I would behave and feel the same as before diagnosis, though as any cancer survivor knows that’s a hard goal to achieve. My life will never be the same and neither will the way I see the world.
Now I try to cling for life giving value to the simple things that life provides, and not to worry too much about trivial things like I use to in the past. After all, I need to be grateful for being alive.
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