Beverley Jones, 39 from Barnsley
I was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer in January 2008 at 29 years old – 10 years ago.
I had really bad constipation in December 2007. I took a laxative at work and when I was driving home that evening I knew something was seriously wrong with me. I had this incredible urge to go to the toilet. I’ve never experienced pain like it. I ran into a pub on my way home as I was desperate for the toilet but nothing came out. When I got home, I had a warm bath to ease the pain and made an appointment to see my GP.
The GP examined me, which was very unpleasant as she had to feel with her finger in my rectum. She did feel something and referred me for a colonoscopy. She thought it was a polyp and so I didn’t think it was bowel cancer.
At the colonoscopy, the consultant did find something but said it looked like a strange ulcer. However, the hospital called me back a few days later to tell me it was bowel cancer.
After I was diagnosed I had four days to get my head together and prepare for surgery. I was told I would be at hospital for two weeks to recover. In the end I was there for four months. After surgery to remove the tumour and having a temporary stoma, my bowel came apart inside, which lead to a serious infection. I was incredibly unwell for a few months. Once the infection cleared, I then had surgery again to move my large bowel to the surface of my tummy and then had two permanent stomas.
Before surgery, the cancer had spread to nine out of 20 lymph nodes removed, which meant I had to have chemotherapy for six months in order for the cancer not to have spread to other organs. I had a lot of side effects from chemo including sore mouth, feet and fingers, vomiting, nose bleeds, fatigue and migraines.
My experience is often hard to explain to people. In some ways I’m scared of nothing now and the things that bothered me in life before really don’t at all now. At times I have felt insecure about my own body. It didn’t help that I was made redundant towards the end of my chemotherapy, so I struggled financially as well as mentally and emotionally. However I have an amazing family – they’ve been angels.
I have good and bad days and still live with two stomas. I manage them well, but buying nice clothes can be hard at times. I like to travel. My chemotherapy ended in October 2008. My mum took me to Tenerife for Christmas that year and I swam in the pool on Christmas day. A feeling, I never thought I'd experience again. A lot of people ask me how I cope with two stomas; my response is always "I just do". After all, without my stomas I wouldn't be alive today.
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
My experience is often hard to explain to people.