Help us to stop bowel cancer

Case studies

We have many people affected by bowel cancer who are willing to share their story. Please do get in touch and we will help find an appropriate case study for you.

In the meantime, here is a small selection.

For case study enquiries, please call the press office on 020 7940 1766 or email press@bowelcanceruk.org.uk

Tracey Johnson, 46, Leicester

“My GP thought I had IBS, and that seemed reasonable. I was young, female, active and relatively healthy – what else was it going to be?

It was two and a half years after my initial IBS diagnosis before I mentioned it to another doctor. This time around, she organised tests, which I expected to detect a simple ulcer. When the doctor started crying as she read the results, I knew it was much worse. At the time, I didn’t know that bowel cancer was – I had no family history – but my shock escalated quickly into real fear.

It was two days before Christmas and my husband I were elbow-deep in organising the food and fun, but now my thoughts were full of whether I’d make it to my next birthday. More bad news was to come when I discovered my cancer was advanced stage three. I had daily chemotherapy and radiotherapy for five weeks and surgery to remove the tumour.

I got the all-clear in July last year, and although I consider myself one of the lucky ones, I regret not questioning my doctor so it might have been detected sooner. My age meant I didn’t fit the classic bowel cancer profile, but it didn’t protect me, either.”

Mick Yallup, Derbyshire

"My cancer was discovered after a routine screening test kit, which revealed an anomaly and a subsequent colonoscopy showed a bowel tumour, I was relieved when there was no repeat kit but not so relieved that I was going for a colonoscopy!

The consultant was unable to get the scope past the tumour so a quick biopsy then out for tea and biscuits. As a smiling Macmillan nurse came towards me I said "guess this is bad news?” "Afraid so”, she said and took me to a quiet room to explain everything.  Following scans I was relieved to hear the cancer hadn’t spread beyond two layers of bowel wall and there were no secondaries.

Since then I've had 42 days of tablet chemotherapy and 28 days radiotherapy as well as 2 x 14 days cycles of further chemo and I’m feeling good!  I’ve also had MRI and CT scans to assess my progress.

I had hoped to avoid the colostomy bag but it seems that the location of my tumour combined with the radiotherapy which causes the tissue to heal slower makes it inevitable. I am now cancer free and waiting for an operation to reverse my ileostomy and get back to a normal life. It’s been a long journey but I feel one of the lucky ones.

A lot of my (older) friends just throw away their test kits, maybe my experience will make them think again when it pops through the door next time!"

Andrew Blackall, 53, Buckinghamshire

"I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in September 2016. I had experienced night sweats, fatigue and a change in bowel habits. I was referred for an endoscopy and colonoscopy plus some other tests and yet nothing really flagged up as being wrong.

I had a couple of abnormal bulges appear that were diagnosed as lipomas and my bowel surgeon not only removed these but also repaired a couple of sports related hernias too. 

I developed what I suspected to be ferocious food poisoning. I visited my GP three times before it was suggested I had an ultrasound abdominal scan. It showed nothing untoward yet the pain and diarrhoea coupled with tiredness and night sweats suggested something wasn’t right.

It was only when I made another appointment with the hospital that my surgeon thought I may possibly have a parasitic infection and booked me in for another endoscopy and colonoscopy. It was at this time that I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. This diagnosis was then followed by more tests.

Initially the treatment was surgery, so pinpointing it with lots of scans and then removing a section of colon, my appendix and some lymph nodes.

I’m a little bit in limbo, I’m told my team are looking to cure me and I have a positive frame of mind that pushes me to do things like walk a mile a day. I have to take life more slowly right now which I find hard. It has also shown me a huge reward from my career in media where some heavy weights in film and TV have come back into my life and been the ordinary people one needs.

My family have pulled together, it's made them realise they only have one dad. My youngest son went through the trauma of a brain tumour. He's at uni now and excelling in all he does. He is my hero."  

Jaimin Patel, 33, London

"I noticed blood in my stool and went to see the GP. He did quick rectal scan and I was sent for a blood test. I didn’t notice any more blood and so I didn’t chase the results until the end of the year when it flared up again. I went back to my GP that referred me to my local hospital for a colonoscopy, which revealed I had stage 3 advanced bowel cancer

I remember thinking at the time that my GP didn’t think much of my symptoms as I was 30 – very young for bowel cancer – and generally healthy. Once they did the colonoscopy and found malignant tumours that I was quickly escalated for surgery but this didn’t happen until six months later. I had my large intestine removed and was left with an ileostomy.

After chemo, I was placed on six monthly reviews and everything was fine for about a year but after a routine CT scan they found cancer in my liver. After more scans and planning for a liver operation they found a growth on my lung. I had an operation on my liver and later when I had recovered, an operation on my lung.

Currently I have three-monthly scans and hopefully if the cancer stays clear, I will move back to a scan every six months.

I had a very difficult time coming to terms with it initially, but having researched more about the treatment I became more positive with the help of my family and friends. It was a struggle initially with the changes I had to make to get used to having an ostomy bag, but adapting has been relatively simple and I have just had to work out a few simple methods of dealing with my condition.

I am a lot more aware of what I eat and how I live my life, but help and support from friends and family has meant I have not struggled as much as I would have thought from the changes I had to make.

I’m trying to stay as positive as I can; my wife is pregnant with our first child so I have a lot to live for."

Pauline Watt-Smith, 67, Oxford

"In May 2015 I received a bowel cancer screening kit as I am now over 60. I did the test and thought no more about it. I had no symptoms and felt very well. I had to do the test three times as my test results were unclear. 
 
After my third test, I received a letter inviting me to have a colonoscopy, which I attended. To my dismay, I was told that I had a malignant, but small, tumour. Everything proceeded very quickly after that. 
 
I had blood tests done that day, a CT scan, and saw the pre-admission team and within two weeks I had surgery to remove the tumour. I stayed in hospital for five days and made a good recovery helped by gentle exercise and a bland diet. I was discharged and advised that I would have another colonoscopy in September 2016. 
 
All was well until the end of April 2016. I had noticed a slight difference in my bowel habit and on two separate occasions I had blood in my stools so I contacted my GP and requested an earlier colonoscopy, which confirmed a reoccurrence. 
 
Once again things moved very swiftly and I had a CT scan, an MRI, blood test, a pre-admission appointment and warned that I may need a stoma this time, and so I also saw the stoma nurse and given appropriate information. I was admitted for further surgery very quickly and underwent a surgery but (thankfully!) did not require a stoma. This time I stayed in hospital for seven days. 
I have recovered well but I do get tired very easily. I did have another colonoscopy and an x-ray but the results were unclear due to a spasm. However, this month I will have another colonoscopy and a CT scan. 
 
I am very grateful to the screening programme for diagnosing my tumour so early. My daughter has recently had a baby boy – our first grandchild, and my son’s wife is also pregnant through IVF and they’re expecting in March next year. We have a lot to thank medical research for!"

Charlotte Caunce, 26, Lancashire

"A few days before Christmas two years ago, my dad passed away from bowel cancer. He was only diagnosed a few months before in October.

He did tell my mum that he found blood in his stool for a few weeks before visiting his GP, and when he eventually did he had to wait two weeks for a colonoscopy.

He had a CT scan at the local hospital and was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer, which has spread to his bone.  To begin with a plan was put in place for chemotherapy and radiotheraphy but this was put on hold after they found an abscess.  By the time it that had healed dad was too ill to have treatment.

We are all coping as we have to but life is so different without dad especially with us all being girls, my mum and three sisters, dad was the strong one of the family, the hero. It's hard especially when you think he could have been saved if found earlier! 

In his memory we have held a charity ball to raise money for Bowel Cancer UK. In July it will be our second annual Ball."