Bowel Cancer Awareness

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness month. I just watched Lorraine and Ben Richards was on talking about how he was diagnosed last year and Kate Garraway seems totally stunned that he had it.

Cancer doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t care about your gender, age, religion, or lifestyle, it’s not picky.

This May will mark the fourth anniversary of when I lost my Grandpa to this horrible disease.  I was really oblivious about bowel cancer until that point as I had never been in contact with it before then and knew very little about it.

My Grandpa had been suffering from symptoms for years before he eventually was diagnosed in 2007 and by that point the tumour was the size of a grapefruit.  Due to his age and the size and location of the cancer, the consultants could only give him palliative care so he went through radiotherapy to try and help shrink the cancer but I can’t help but wonder if it had been found earlier would he have lived for a while longer.

He was diagnosed in October 2007 and we were told he would not live past that December.  We moved him out of his house and in with my Mum and tried to make  as comfortable as we could.  I had given birth to Miss B in the August that year so thankfully I was on maternity leave so able to spend a lot of time with him and I was there to take him to his appointments and to try and support my Mum as she was his main carer.

Miss Bs first Christmas came and while it was a happy milestone, it was also tinged with sadness.  I was so happy that he got to spend time with her and get to know her but also in the back of my mind I worried about what was coming. How was bowel cancer going to affect him? What were the realities of the disease?

We were very lucky that he survived through that Christmas but 2008 was a very hard year for him.  We had a stream of hospital visits, carers, GPs, emergency trips to A&E and a lot of pain and discomfort. He always felt that he needed the toilet, so spent a lot of his day in there. He was on so many different drugs, I have no idea how my Mum managed to keep a track of them all, but she did.  Our family all pulled together to make sure that he was as comfortable as he could be and supported each other as best we could.

He eventually passed away on 3rd May 2009 after a very hard battle with bowel cancer.  I saw him go through some truly awful effects of the disease and his final few weeks with us were really difficult, but he was surrounded with love and died peacefully in the end.

I can’t stress enough just how important it is to get checked out if you have any of the symptoms, it could be nothing but it might be something.  An early diagnosis can ensure that if a care plan is able to happen then plans can be put in place and give you a fighting chance.

There are a few key symptoms to look out for:

  • Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
  • A change in bowel habits
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Anemia
  • Stomach pain

After watching Lorraine this morning I felt compelled to write something about bowel cancer. We really need to try and raise awareness of the disease and try to save lives with early diagnosis and intervention.