Beating bowel cancer together

Lisa Wells, Somerset

I was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer in December 2017.

For more about a year before my diagnosis, I felt like I had IBS. My toilet habits changes, I felt constantly constipated. I spoke to my family and friends and they’d say things like “this happens to me too” so I just thought it was completely normal to feel like this.

After the birth of my first child, I had five miscarriages. The sixth time I got pregnant I was trying not to get too excited but the first 20 weeks I felt fine. Although my symptoms carried on, I just thought it was down to being pregnant and no other health professional questioned whether it could be something else.

It was only when I got to 35 weeks pregnant, that I terrible back pain and had to sleep upright on the sofa for the remaining time that I was pregnant. I’m not even sure how I did it.

I later found out that the baby was pushing on the tumour. It felt like I constantly needed a poo, but nothing would come out. It’s a very odd feeling. We went on holiday for two weeks, and I didn’t have a poo once.

Whilst out for lunch, I had a poo and saw a massive amount of blood. At first I thought the worst that I was having another miscarriage, but it was coming out the wrong end so I knew my baby was fine.

 

I can’t do this now as every day is so different. Cancer makes you lose your identity.

I went to the GP again, I’d been a few times that year, and they said it could be a few things: IBS, Crohn’s, Cancer. I went for blood tests but nothing came up.

By this time, I was losing weight, I had no appetite and I was in a lot of pain. I was blocked that my appendix was very close to bursting. I needed emergency surgery but before this could happen, I needed to be induced. So I had my baby very early at 39 weeks followed by surgery to remove my appendix.

I never really recovered from the surgery. My infection markers were really high. I didn’t eat or drink, and I was sick up to 20 times a day. I was in hospital for three weeks.

Once I was back at home with my new born baby, I kept having to go to the GP as six water infections. In the end, I went to A&E and had a colonoscopy.

You know its bad news when a Macmillan Cancer Nurse is in the room with you.

They found an 11cm tumour.

It was full on after that. I had scans, tests and then 10 days later was on chemo. My oncologist told me that had spread to my liver. I was really shocked at this, because I only had symptoms for a year I thought we caught it quite early.

My oncologist was quite insistent that there were no treatment options for me and all he could offer was chemo for palliative care. He gave me between two – 12 months to live. I have a husband and two children (a five year old and a year old), I have everything to live for. My life was perfect before cancer.

In February, I had surgery to remove the cancer and a stoma, followed by chemo. I had an ice cap to encourage my hair not to fall out. I set up Lisa’s Army to raise money for my kids’ future. I thought it would raise around £5,000 to help with their driving lessons, or going to university but in fact it’s raised nearly £100,000.

You know its bad news when a Macmillan Cancer Nurse is in the room with you.

When you get a cancer diagnosis, people want to help but they don’t know how. Lisa’s Army gave them an outlet for this.

I was lucky to go on ITV’s This Morning to talk about bowel cancer and the fundraising. Loads of people got in touch with me after, but one woman said to me that after watching me on the programme she went to her GP after noticing symptoms and was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer.

Telling my eldest child was really difficult, especially as she’s so young. I looked at books for advice but didn’t really find what I was looking for. Throughout my treatment, I wrote two books aimed at telling children about cancer, one from the mum’s side and the other from the dad’s.

I really wasn’t happy with the palliative care option. As I mentioned, I had everything to live for. I kept going on forums and reading about other treatment options, but my oncologist just said no to everything. I just knew that I had to try something, but he was so unwilling. I felt really let down by him.

In the end we sought advice from a retired private oncologist, and he gave us treatment options. But my original oncologist just said that they’ll tell you anything just to have to your money.

In October, we made the decision to go against my oncologist and sought a new one at Guy’s Hospital for treatment that wasn’t offered at my local hospital. Since then I’ve been making the two hour trip to London every two weeks for chemo often with my mum, so my husband can be at home with the kids. We don’t want to disrupt their routine too much.

I’m a nail technician, and before cancer I had around ten clients per day coming to my house to get their nails done. I can’t do this now as every day is so different. Cancer makes you lose your identity.

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

Back to younger people with bowel cancer  Share your story

Thanks supporter

Thanks for signing up for this great campaign. To complete the setup of your JustGiving page you need to first create an account for myemail@domain.tld, please enter a new password to use below. Alternatively if you already have an account and would like to use it just click here.

Thanks supporter

Thanks for signing up for this great campaign. To complete the setup of your JustGiving page you need to login to your myemail@domain.tld account, please enter the password for that account below. Alternatively if you have a different account you would like to use just click here.

Forgotten password

Hi supporter, do you want to send a password reminder?.

JustGiving Login

Hi supporter, please enter your JustGiving login details below and we'll handle the rest.