Mark Newberry, Hamilton
I was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in December 2017 at the age of 38.
I had been having irregular bowel movements for a few months but didn’t think much about it. In the week leading up to when I was diagnosed, I had bad stomach pains, was unable to keep any food down and I also felt lethargic.
I went to an out of hours clinic at the end of November 2017, where I was told that I had a stomach ulcer. I went to my GP the next day and was told that I had colic, and was given a fibre gel sachet. On 30 November 2017 (2 days later) I went back to the same GP practice but saw a different GP. I was told that I indeed had colic, and was told to double the fibre gel dosage.
At this stage, bowel cancer wasn’t even on my radar. I was apologising for wasting their time when they probably had more pressing matters to attend to. That same evening, my wife forced me to go to A&E as I was in so much pain. I had an x-ray and was kept in hospital overnight.
On 2 December (two days later) I had a scope which was when I was diagnosed with having bowel cancer, followed by emergency surgery just over an hour after this diagnosis. This surgery showed that the tumour had blocked the bowel. I woke up after a seven hour operation to be told that the cancer had spread and that I had a stoma, so I had to get my head around that too which was a big shock. I later got this reversed just under a year later in November 2018.
When I went to meet my Oncologist in January 2018 in view of starting chemo, she said that I had stage 4 bowel cancer before surgery, but they were now treating it as stage 3.
Treatment wise, I had eight cycles of chemo over six months. I had the usual side effects, including being sensitive to cold and having tingling in my hands (which I still have to the day). I also felt lethargic and I had numbness in my feet, which always feels cold still to this day.
I’m doing well now, a lot to be thankful for.
I’m on medication to help repair the damaged nerves in my feet and fingers. I still get stomach pains, which is probably because my omentum was removed during surgery as it was cancerous, and the omentum helps protect the stomach. In 12 days short of a year, I’d had emergency surgery lasting 7hrs, a stoma, six months of chemo, numerous scans, the all clear and another long op lasting almost 8hrs to have the stoma reversed back to normal again.
After diagnosis, I asked my GP practice why it was missed and was told that it wouldn’t have even be on their radar because I was only 38.
Being diagnosed with bowel cancer has definitely changed how I look at things in life. You appreciate the small things more.
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