Now You C Me (Part 6)

No apologies, this week I’m talking real shit! – like, literally. I’m quite sure that the majority of you have no idea that April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.

To be fair before my diagnosis I didn’t have a clue about it either, it’s not like it’s one of the more talked about diseases, but the reality is we all eat and we all poo so it could get you too!

One of the memories that Facebook shared with me this week was of the day I said goodbye to my locks – add to that my annual CT scan on Friday to check that things are still ok (🤞🏾) and there was only one subject I wanted to write about.

The most important reason why I wanted to talk about it is because if you listen to the statistics only you’ll be fooled into believing that you are safe if you’re below the age of 60. People are campaigning to lower the age of screening in England to 50 but that, for me, is still too high an age.

I was diagnosed at 39 after months of misdiagnosis and I’m lucky to be here, so would like to share my tale with you in the hope it may help someone else in the future. It’s not the nicest subject I grant you, and if you aren’t interested in the finer details you may want to stop now, but there really is no sugarcoating shit!

For me the first sign was a slight pain in my right side in January 2014 – kinda like a stitch. Nothing too major and not enough to warrant too much concern, but it would come and go at random times and when I wasn’t necessarily exerting myself.

It stayed the same for about a week, and then I realised it was less random and more constant. Now, I wasn’t the most ‘regular’ person to start with so wasn’t surprised when a few days had passed without me going for a poo, but when I did eventually go I noticed that there was a little blood and mucus when I wiped, (yes I look, and you should too!) That added with the pain I was straight off to the doctors sharpish. I was thankfully aware of the signs so didn’t think twice, in spite of my age.

I was seen at my surgery by a lovely lady who reassured me it was probably nothing but stood by protocol and referred me within 2 weeks to have a sigmoidoscopy. This is a procedure where they examine your large intestine through your rectum (Yeh, nice I know, but bear with me) and which, in my case, picked up nothing more than a couple of internal haemorrhoids which they put the blood and mucus down to.

That however, didn’t explain the pain which, during those weeks, had intensified further and painkillers couldn’t touch it. I went back to my doctor who agreed there was definitely something wrong but was unsure as to what it was and said she would try to arrange for me to have a CT scan for as soon as possible.

By the time of my first visit to A&E (pre scan), I was hardly eating and the pain was wiping me out. They checked me over, told me it sounded like IBS and gave me Buscopan and Co-codamol which did nothing.

I went back to the doctors and urged her to chase up my appointment, and a week later I had it done. I was working at the time but found myself having to take days off where I just honestly couldn’t function and all I wanted to do was sleep, but there was no reprieve in that either.

At this point the pain was coming in constant waves like contractions – I was in full on labour without the joy of a baby at the end of it! My second trip to A&E had me leaving with more of the same pills and this time a possible diagnosis of Chrohn’s disease or endometriosis. Marvellous!

A week later there were still no results and I was a hot mess. I took myself to A&E again to be told the same thing and that I’d have to wait for my scan results. That last trip was on Friday 16th May. On the Saturday I was unable to eat or drink anything and called an ambulance out.

I was assessed by the paramedics and told there was nothing they could do but prescribe me stronger pain meds until I could see my GP and get my results. They arranged for an out of hours doctor to give me Tramadol and it numbed the pain slightly but nowhere near enough. I dozed for most of Sunday and on Monday morning the real fun began!

Without exaggeration, I was fucked! The pain, no food and little water had knocked me for six, to the point of me being unable to catch my breath. My fiancé called an ambulance and I was taken to A&E where I was given morphine which was soon to become my bff!

Morphina, as she is now known, performed the miracle I had been looking for for 5 months – she freed me from my shackles of pain and it was thee best feeling on Earth!

I was severely dehydrated so they hooked me up to fluids and a few hours later I could actually remember what it felt like to be human again. It was bliss! – then they came with the fuckery.

Apparently, now I looked a little more perky, they were happy to send me home to wait for the results of my scan. Naturally I was a tad perplexed by their decision and told them so in no uncertain terms. There was no way in Hell I was leaving that place after a taste of the sweet relief Morphina had given me. NOT👏🏾A👏🏾CHANCE!👏🏾

I told them I’d waited weeks for the results and there was no way I’d be leaving there without a fight – call who the fuck you want, I AIN’T LEAVING! I’m guessing the mad glint in my eye was enough to let them know I was for real and they admitted me.

Surprise, surprise the next day I got my CT scan results which showed nothing but slight swelling around my appendix, but they knew my appendix wasn’t the problem as the pain had gone on for too long. There were signs from my bloods that something was amiss so they sent me down for an ultrasound where the brilliant radiographer proved she knew her stuff.

She said that my bowel looked twisted and suggested the surgeon have a look laparoscopically. I was warned that as it’s the bowel depending on what they find I might need a stoma bag but hopefully it would be straightforward. On Wednesday 21st May – exactly 6 months before my 40th birthday – I went down for surgery.

When I awoke I was told that they’d had a look laparoscopically and it was a bigger job than they’d expected, resulting in being operated on for 5 and a half hours to remove a third of my bowel.

They’d found “something” they wanted to check out so were sending it off for biopsy. Ever the realist, I asked the surgeon there and then to give me the real talk and asked him if it was cancer. He said he couldn’t confirm it without the results but he was more than sure it was. To be honest I was just relieved to know that they FINALLY had an answer.

It took just over 5 months to get me to diagnosis. By the time they’d operated on me my tumour was 6 inches by 3 inches, had spread from my bowel to my lymph nodes and was just about to make out with my liver.

They said had I gone home when they wanted to discharge me by the time they saw me again I would have been Stage 4. I questioned how my CT scan didn’t show anything at all and was told that upon taking a second look they could see it. Obviously I wasn’t too thrilled to hear that and I am now adamant they triple check my results – once bitten and all that.

They assured me had things not gone the way they did, the next step would have been a colonoscopy, which would have shown what the deal was as my cancer was in the large bowel which the sigmoidoscopy wouldn’t have picked up.

Quite frankly, that was little comfort considering the length of time it took to get my results let alone them missing a big, fat juicy tumour!

I’m not knocking the NHS as a whole, they do a great job and I’m thankful for them potentially saving my life, but a lot of areas could be improved which will be discussed at a later date! For now without sounding too preachy, I want to tell you to please listen to your body.

No one knows you like you. If you have an issue, no matter how embarrassing you may feel it is, if you truly value and appreciate life you will get it checked out – end of! It could be a minor, but it could also be something major so worth a once over at least. If you feel you are not being heard and they are fobbing you off persevere, shout louder, get second and third opinions if need be.

Look after yourself from the inside out and watch what you’re putting in your body. By all means indulge but moderation is the key.

I’m two years into my 5 year check up and awaiting the results from Friday. Who knows what will unfold but I’m keeping the positive vibe alive for as long as I can – I’ve got a lot more living to do yet!

Syria you’re still forever in my thoughts. Hoping there’s an end to the madness soon.

R.I.P to all those who have lost their lives this week.

Be Safe Rather Than Sorry!, Stay Blessed & #CelebrateLife

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