Samantha Crawley, Essex
I was diagnosed with stage two bowel cancer at 31 years old in 2018.
About six month prior to my diagnosis, I occasionally saw blood in my stool which became more frequent as the months passed. I also experienced incomplete emptying of my bowel, a sensation of fullness and persistent bloating. It was a very stressful time for me, my husband had left me in October 2017 and suddenly I was a single mum. I thought these symptoms were put down to stress.
As an emergency care practitioner, I was aware of the possibility of bowel cancer but at my age, I believed it was more likely to be an ulcer or colitis. Nor did I visit the GP as I just assumed they would tell me it could be piles or IBS and I knew it wasn’t that.
It was only until I experienced severe pain and vomiting at work that I went to A&E and had a colonoscopy within a week. It was there that a tumour was found, and an MRI report showed that my lymph nodes were infected. Therefore I was initially diagnosed at a more advanced stage.
I had an anterior resection with total mesorectal excision surgery to remove the sigmoid colon, part of my rectum and surrounding tissue. I’m still experiencing side effects from the surgery including chronic rectal pain, abdominal bloating, constipation, impaction, nausea, vomiting as well as fatigue. I need to sleep for around 12 hours and find work a lot more challenging.
The surgery was successful, and the histology confirmed that all 30 lymph nodes removed were negative as well as blood vessels. I now just have regular scans.
Since my diagnosis I appreciate life a lot more, especially being here to watch my son grow up. My only real fear throughout the last year has been the thought of him going through the trauma of losing a parent.
My energy levels are still very low and I feel depressed a lot of the time as I need so much sleep and have no social life. I have a lot of anxiety about coping at work, I worry about not being able to lie down and rest if I am struggling with pain or fatigue. I miss being able to eat normally without having to cope with the after effects. My son is my reason to stay positive and keep persisting with new ways to manage the symptoms.
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