Beating bowel cancer together

Jody Jones, Hertfordshire

Jody was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer in December 2017. This is her story:

I was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer in December 2017.

I had a really bad stomach pain for about five to six weeks prior to my diagnosis. One day when I was at work, I was doubled over in pain. My boss, also my mum, immediately took me to my GP as we knew this wasn’t right.

I do a lot open water swimming, and even though I’ve never picked up a bug from doing this, my GP did a few tests and then referred me to a gastroenterologist. As I’ve done a lot of sport, and I was a PE teacher, they thought it could be an old injury in my back causing these painful stomach pains.

He recommended me to have an MRI scan before Christmas, followed by a colonoscopy in the New Year. I wasn’t quite happy with this as I wanted to rule out cancer first. They agreed although they did reassure me it was highly unlikely it would be anything sinister, like bowel cancer.

It was on the 19 December that I had my colonoscopy, the consultant couldn’t even get the tube past the tumour. It was so big – 15cm!

I had emergency surgery on the 29 December, to be honest it was touch and go whether I would survive.

They had removed the tumour and also took out around 35-40 lymph nodes, only three of them weren’t cancerous. It had also spread to my liver.

The team said that I would need to have around three months off work to recover. I was training to swim the English Channel at this time and they categorically said I wouldn’t be able to do any swimming for three months. However, I was recovering really well and five weeks later, with their permission, I was back open water swimming.

I had six months’ worth of chemo, followed by liver surgery. There wasn’t any more cancer in my body and I was having clear scans. However in January 2019, I had another scan and this time the results weren’t good.

The cancer had spread across my lymph nodes in my abdomen all the way to my neck. I was absolutely devastated. My prognosis changed from operable to ‘difficult to cure’.

I took part in a clinical trial to reduce the amount of lymph nodes so I could have cyber knife treatment. However, five months later there’s no more cancer in my body – it’s done an incredible job!

Whilst I was on the trial and having treatment, I reached my dream of swimming the English Channel. It was 21 miles and took 18 hours, 14 mins and 30 secs.

Read about how Jody swam the English Channel with bowel cancer

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

  

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