Chris Norris, London
When I was diagnosed I had been experiencing abdominal pain and had to see my GP four times before being referred for a colonoscopy. The cancer had spread to my liver and peritoneum. I was devastated to be told I was incurable and my life expectancy was just two or three years. Nearly four years later, I still have cancer but I try to live life the way I want to.
My oncologist had mentioned the possibility of cytoreduction surgery and HIPEC early on in my treatment, and after a very successful first course of chemotherapy he made a referral to a specialist surgeon who reviewed my scans and performed a laparoscopy to assess my peritoneum.
HIPEC is usually not offered where cancer has spread to areas other than the peritoneum, but in my case it was combined with a resection of the small remaining tumour in my liver.
The specialist colorectal nurse was fantastic at answering my questions. I was operated on for about eight hours by four surgeons, including the liver surgeon, and kept sedated until the next day. My recovery was challenging at times, but faster than expected. I spent just under two weeks in hospital but a longer period recovering at home.
While this surgery was very successful in treating the areas of disease I had at the time, unfortunately I have subsequently had further recurrences in distant lymph nodes. I was able to have surgery again after the first recurrence but the most recent are not operable and I am now having ongoing chemotherapy to keep the disease stable. My oncologist calls this ‘maintenance’ chemotherapy and it involves fewer drugs than before.
Living with chemotherapy long term can be tough, but I wouldn’t be here without it. It would be easy to define my life by this disease. It can sometimes be hard to remember what life was like before cancer, but I make the most of every opportunity. I work part time, go on regular holidays with my husband, exercise regularly, am politically active, and volunteer for a few charities.
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