How our online community helped Helen
Helen was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer in August 2016, aged 36. She tells us how using the online community has been “lifesaving” for her.
I was young, healthy with no family history of bowel cancer, so my diagnosis naturally came as a huge shock.
For around a month prior to my diagnosis, I’d been experiencing cramps after eating, which became very painful. On my first visit to A&E they thought it was possible gallstones, which my GP agreed with but said it could also be coeliac disease or irritable bowel syndrome. When the pain continued I returned to A&E and the consultant arranged a scan, which showed a large tumour in my upper colon.
That consultant saved my life. I had emergency surgery to remove the tumour and spent over two weeks recovering in hospital. Unfortunately, a month later my oncologist confirmed the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes and peritoneum. I had to start chemotherapy straight away. I was absolutely devastated. I’ve had fantastic support from my family, friends and two beautiful young children, who are my driving force whilst I endure the treatment to extend my life. I’m very fortunate to have such amazing support around me.
The Bowel Cancer UK online community has been incredible. Many users have made friends on there and have described the advice given as lifesaving. Some patients have been advised to receive second opinions on their treatment and then go on to have procedures that have been successful, options that they weren’t originally aware of.
The friends I have made through the online community have been so helpful and supportive. We pull each other along through the tough side effects from chemo and surgery. We know about the emotional rollercoaster we live in and the infamous ‘scanxiety’. Ultimately, I feel less isolated with these friends and they inspire me to ‘crack on’ because we must. Any day when I’m feeling unwell, can’t face treatment or it’s a scan day, I will get reassurances from them and we lift each other up. This support helps us build our resilience as we live with cancer.
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