Penny Lipitch, London
I was diagnosed with stage 1 bowel cancer in September 2017, aged 39.
I was having abdominal pain, bloating and intermittent bleeding for about eight months before my diagnosis. I had been to see my GP and they kept referring me for various tests. I had blood tests, an ultrasound and did a stool sample, but they couldn’t find anything wrong. No one thought it was anything serious, even the consultant who referred me for a colonoscopy. Because of my age no one was concerned and it took some time. It took about six months to have a colonoscopy after my initial GP appointment.
I was nervous about the colonoscopy, but I was just expecting it to confirm what I thought I already knew – that it was colitis or Crohn’s disease. However, during the examination it became clear that something was wrong and after looking at the screen and asking for more information on what was happening, I was told that they had found a tumour and that it may be cancerous. I was shocked, my body and heart sank.
I am ten months on now and my body is still healing, but I look after it and cherish it each day.
Following this difficult news, I was booked in immediately for a CT scan, an MRI scan and then an operation. The tests showed that the cancer hadn’t spread anywhere else in the body and so was probably stage 1 or 2, depending on post-surgery results which test the lymph nodes. This was good news as it meant that my cancer would be easily treatable and there would hopefully be a lower chance of radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
The surgery was hard and took a toll on my body and mind, but I recovered quickly and was again relieved to find out that there was no lymph involvement at all, so it was stage 1. It took me six weeks to go back to work, start exercising again and get back to my usual self but full recovery took months. I am ten months on now and my body is still healing, but I look after it and cherish it each day.
I have also started meditating and working on my emotions and understanding myself. Sometimes looking back, I still can't believe it happened to me, but it happened for a reason and it has taught me a lot. I look back on my journey as a life lesson. I am so grateful for what I have now and I feel like a better person.
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