Jon Walmsley, Hull
I was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer in August 2018 aged 41.
In late 2016 – early 2017, I was experiencing severe constipation and passing blood which was gradually getting worse. A few weeks before this I had also been suffering from sharp pains in my lower abdomen. I went to see my GP in July 2018 with these symptoms. My doctor was very concerned due to my history of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma as a young teenager, and skin cancer diagnosis (basal cell carcinoma) in 2016. He was extremely supportive and referred me via FastTrack for further tests and a colonoscopy.
A large lesion was discovered during the colonoscopy and I was told it was more than likely a malignant tumour, but, I had the long and anxious wait for the biopsy results to confirm it was bowel cancer. I never expected my symptoms could have been anything as serious as bowel cancer.
I should’ve seen my GP sooner. I told myself it was just haemorrhoids or diverticulitis.
In late August I underwent a bowel resection, and after 9 days in the hospital, I returned home to recover for a few weeks before starting chemotherapy. During surgery, they removed 19 lymph nodes along with 30cm of my sigmoid colon. Five lymph nodes were active for cancer cells.
Because of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in my teenage years, I had concerns about ever having to go through chemotherapy again, not knowing if my body could tolerate it. After reassurance by medical professionals, I started six months of XELOX adjuvant chemotherapy in mid-October.
I tolerated the treatment surprisingly well. The only significant side effect was peripheral neuropathy (acute pins and needles/nerve damage) and some cracking and splitting of the skin on my hands and feet.
The first cycle of chemotherapy was a very daunting and anxious experience and evoked a lot of unpleasant memories. From my previous experiences in the early 1990s to the most recent episode in 2018, cancer care and treatment has changed significantly, the facilities and support are truly world-class.
My experiences with cancer have made me see life very differently. I have enjoyed a very rich and varied life, traveling to many beautiful places in the world, meeting lots of amazing people and experiencing so many amazing things, I do make the most of every opportunity that comes my way.
I start university in September to study nursing and would love to work in the teenage cancer trust caring for young cancer patients.
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