Beating bowel cancer together

"I signed up to Step up for 30 to help my recovery"

Monday 28 February 2022

Rachel from Pontypridd was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2018 aged just 33.

I'd been having symptoms for maybe 18 months before I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. I was feeling really tired, having abdominal pain and also getting a burning feeling in the lower part of my stomach after eating some foods. I kept on going to my GP but was just told to take buscopan, which is a medication to treat stomach pain and irritable bowel disease. However the symptoms kept on getting worse, and in both April and May 2018 I was admitted to hospital. The doctors diagnosed me with an ovarian cyst. I had a CT scan, MRI scan and ultrasound, but nothing else was found.

At the time I also had chronic psoriasis, so I thought maybe the medication I was taking for this was the issue. I went to go see my dermatologist, who looked into the side effects often caused by my psoriasis medication. When realising none of my symptoms matched this, they quickly booked me in for a colonoscopy.

I had an appointment with the gastro consultant on 17 August 2018 and had my colonoscopy on 12 November 2018. At my colonoscopy they detailed what I saw on the screen was a lesion on my appendix, which would mean I'd need to be sent for a two week urgent appointment. At this point I was worried, but I thought the worst it would be was an inflamed appendix. I was wrong. At my next appointment I was told it looked like I had bowel cancer.

The cancer had spread outside the bowel and the ovarian cyst that was picked up a few months ago was part of this spread. However, due to my young age, nobody at the time put this down to advanced bowel cancer.

It was devastating, but when you find yourself in a position like that, you have no choice but to keep on going.

During the operation, I had a hysterectomy as well as the removal of two sections of my bowel and a stoma created. After surgery I started eight cycles of chemotherapy. However, my treatment plan had to be changed as I was having such severe side effects. My cancer spread to my lung in September 2019, so now I'm stage 4. However I had successful surgery in November 2019 and further chemotherapy treatment until April 2020.

I will continue to be monitored every six months with scans, blood tests and appointments for the next five years, so the nightmare of cancer is not over yet. However, I've been cancer free since September 2020 and have gone through a stoma reversal surgery in February 2021. Exercise has been a vital aid in my recovery.

I signed up to Step up for 30 to help my recovery from my cancer diagnosis, chemotherapy and multiple surgeries and to improve my mental health post cancer treatment. I find keeping active is vital to ensure a positive outlook and help to rebuild your body and mind. I went for daily walks and did free online workouts. In the two years I've completed the challenge I've raised over £1,800.

Raising money for Bowel Cancer UK means so much to me. It's my mission and duty to raise awareness as much as I can so no one else experiences this illness that takes so much from you.

My top tips for staying motivated during Step up for 30 are:

  • Go outside and find new walking routes in your area
  • Access free home workouts, there are lots on YouTube and Instagram
  • Do something you enjoy
  • Listening to music you love whilst exercising is a fabulous motivation tool
  • Get your friends involved to help you achieve the 30 minute daily challenge
  • Dancing, play and cleaning all count towards activity

I will be sharing my Step up for 30 challenge on my social media page @rachyreedy and will be providing lots more ideas and links to activities that you can do.

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