Steve Collingwood, East Yorkshire
I was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer on Monday 1 April 2019, at 47.
In March 2019, I was admitted to my local hospital in Hull with a suspected heart attack. Whilst awaiting treatment I was given blood thinning medication. The next morning I started passing large amounts of blood from my behind.
The next day I was sent for an urgent CT scan then a colonoscopy. It was after my colonoscopy that I was told I had a tumour in my large bowel, and it was more than likely cancerous. I was shocked and stunned. Apart from the bleeding that I saw the previous day, I didn’t have any symptoms.
I thought the disease only affected old people – I wasn't old enough. I was on my own when I received the devastating news. It was hard to get my head around as I had only just had a heart attack which was out of the blue without warning. I then had to tell my wife, children and family in hospital which was difficult for everyone. I remained in hospital to have a couple of stents fitted in my heart. Then allowed home for a month to let my heart settle down before surgery.
I went back into hospital for a low anterior resection, they removed part of my bowel containing the tumour and nearby lymph nodes. Six weeks later I received the biopsy results, some lymph nodes removed were cancerous, meaning I needed chemotherapy.
I had six out of eight cycles of chemotherapy, as treatment had to stop due to severe side effects. I was unable to walk but thankfully have recovered, I still suffer with peripheral neuropathy which comes and goes. I also suffer from long term bowel issues. I either have severe constipation or diarrhoea, no in between which limits what I can do daily. I’ve had my join stretched as it had narrowed due to scar tissue and I have to take laxatives and pain killers every day to manage this to prevent blocking.
The care I received has been amazing, I wanted to give something back so I signed up for Walk Together. I wasn’t able to prepare much, walking can be a struggle at times, so I just got up one day and thought my peripheral neuropathy isn’t bad today, let’s do it. I managed to do it all in one go, which was a huge achievement, it was hard for the last mile, I was really happy raising nearly £600. My family in Manchester also organising a local walk too.
As a family we remain positive, thankful, and try to make every second count. My wife Julie has been unbelievable throughout. She is one in a million. There are no words that can describe exactly how she’s helped me through this last 18 months. Rebecca, 18 and Dominic, 14, both continue to make us really proud in the way they handle my illness. We promised to be open and honest throughout and kept it as light hearted as we could making fun of dad. It was important that they were involved to show them that cancer doesn’t have to be frightening.
My work colleagues have always kept in touch to see how I was getting on. Work were fully supportive throughout my diagnosis, treatment and after care. They have never put me under any pressure to return to work before I was ready. I cannot thank my employer enough or my work friends, in the way they have treated me. It’s been a very stressful time going through treatment and having the full support from work and colleagues made a huge difference.
I had a scan in January 2020 and all was clear. I am so thankful and feel very lucky that something as terrible as a heart attack revealed my cancer, much earlier which ultimately saved my life.
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.