Charlene Martin, Cambridgeshire
I was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in April 2017 at 31 years old.
Four years before my diagnosis I went to my GP as I had started to see blood in my poo, and was prescribed IBS medication and had a blood test. The bleeding stopped so I didn’t go back to the GP, I just assumed the tablets were working.
It wasn’t until I was pregnant that I started bleeding again and went to the GP again, which was in September 2016. It was completely different from four years ago, and I was very concerned. I was sleeping 16-18 hours a day, and I wasn’t sure if this was pregnancy related but when I had my six week post-natal check up my doctors weren’t concerned.
I kept stressing to my GP that I was worried about my symptoms, I just had a gut feeling that it wasn’t piles. I told them on more than one occasion that I thought it was bowel cancer, and at one point I knew it had spread to my liver but they didn’t take my concerns seriously. I just kept being told it could be piles, Crohn’s disease or polyps, and that I had ‘health anxiety’. I do have a family history of polyps.
I know the symptoms of bowel cancer as my friend has also been diagnosed. Through my own research, I know being pregnant could mask the symptoms of the disease.
Life now revolves around hospitals, appointment and scans. We live three months at a time around scan results.
My GP eventually referred me for an endoscopy test, and I had a flexi-sigmoidoscopy in March 2017 and then a colonoscopy a month later. It was there that they found a tumour, and further scans confirmed that it had spread to my liver.
I had bowel resection surgery in May 2017, liver surgery two months later followed by 12 months of FOLFOX chemo. In the mean time I had my daughter. I was unable to lift anything heavy and not even able to hold my baby from nine months old to when she had turned one. The chemo gave me terrible neuropathy, nausea, acid reflux, diarrhoea and terrible skin.
I was in remission for three months, and then it reoccurred in my liver. I’m now back on chemo with similar side effects but thankfully the neuropathy has resided but I am more tired.
Life has been flipped upside down completely. Everything has changed for me, my husband and especially our children. Life now revolves around hospitals, appointment and scans. We live three months at a time around scan results.
However despite the new way of life it’s also taught us to appreciate what we have and to cherish every day.
But we’re improving access to treatment and care for advanced bowel cancer
Nearly 10,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer each year. This is when the cancer has spread to somewhere else in the body, such as the liver or lungs. People with advanced bowel cancer typically have poorer outcomes but access to surgery and drugs can help to extend life and can sometimes be curative.
We are determined to improve survival rates and support for people with advanced bowel cancer. We want to see improved access to high-quality treatment to ensure longer survival and a better quality of life for people, including:
- Increasing survival rates and improving holistic support for patients and their families
- Reducing inequalities in access to potential life-saving liver surgery
- Improving access to cancer drugs based on clinical need and not postcode
- Providing better communications and support for people with palliative and end of life care needs