Leanne Dickinson, Leeds
I was diagnosed with stage 2 bowel cancer in November 2017.
I’d always experienced some sort of stomach cramps but these were put down to IBS by a GP I visited in 2014. The cramps got worse in 2016 and the GP sent me for an ultrasound to rule out any ovarian issues after having Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) for years.
The ultrasound confirmed I was five weeks pregnant with my second child so the problem was swept under the carpet as I dealt with the pregnancy. After my daughter Charlotte was born in January 2017 I noticed myself getting more and more tired to the point that I couldn’t walk up a small hill without being out of breath and exhausted. I just put this down to having a baby and a two year old. At the time I hadn’t noticed a change in bowel habit, but thinking back the stools were really thin, twiglet like, and I’d lost around half a stone in six weeks. I struggled to sleep at night with achy, restless legs which led me to visit the GP in October 2017.
A blood test then showed I was extremely anaemic, so I was referred for an urgent colonoscopy. My GP said that she was going to urgently refer me due to my symptoms to rule out anything “nasty”. I didn’t think much of it and thought it would be something innocent.
Before my colonoscopy I had a CT scan which showed a 3cm tumour, unbeknown to me. During the colonoscopy the doctor came across the tumour – he told me they expected to see something during the colonoscopy, but nothing this bad and that it was most likely cancer. I expected to be stage 4 at that point. I then had to wait 10 days later for my official diagnosis.
I had a procedure to remove one side of my colon on 30 November and the biopsy showed that there were no signs of cancer in the lymph nodes or blood vessels that were tested. I am awaiting an operation for a hernia, and I have routine follow ups like three-monthly blood tests and annual CT scans.
Caring for me and our two young children could have taken its toll on some but he has done it amazingly well and I can’t thank him enough
My grandad had bowel cancer at 80 – my tumour was tested for Lynch syndrome and the tests came back negative. I spoke to the genetic specialist because of my age and he has referred me for full genetic testing, due to polyp adenomas and family history of bowel cancer. I’m nervous for the genetic results as I don’t want it to affect my young children.
I feel very uncertain at the moment. I have a lot of faith in my GP but do feel as though any little symptom could be the return of the cancer as I didn’t have chemotherapy. The stage of my diagnosis leaves some people needing chemotherapy and some not, so it’s a case of being left to ‘watch and wait’.
I have grown a lot closer to my family and some of my closest friends. As this came out of the blue it knocked me for six - I don’t take life for granted as it can be snatched away very quickly. My husband has been amazing throughout, dealing with my diagnosis alongside his mum’s breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Caring for me and our two young children could have taken its toll on some but he has done it amazingly well and I can’t thank him enough. I go for regular counselling with a Macmillan counsellor which has also helped.
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