Bowel Cancer Awareness Month 2018

What does Bowel Cancer Awareness Month mean to me?

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, this is a subject that is very close to my heart and very important to me. If you know me or have read my previous blog posts you’ll know that I had Stage 3 bowel cancer 10 years ago, having had major life changing surgery followed by 6 months of chemotherapy, I survived, I kicked cancer’s butt but it was a long hard battle both physically and mentally. I still have medical problems relating to my cancer but (fingers crossed!) it’s all under control. Luckily my cancer was caught early so my survival rate was high, if it had been any longer that survival rate decreases as the cancer can spread to adjacent organs.

Facts about Bowel Cancer

  • Bowel Cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK to date after lung cancer.
  • Over 41, 200 new cases of bowel cancer are diagnosed each year.
  • 2,500 of these cases are people under 50 years of age.
  • Every 30 minutes somebody in the UK dies from bowel cancer.
  • There are 15,600 deaths from bowel cancer each year.
  • Only 15% of people get diagnosed in the early stages.
  • 9 out of 10 people diagnosed with Stage 1 bowel cancer survive 5 years or more after diagnosis.
  • 1 in 14 men and 1 in 19 women are diagnosed with bowel cancer.

My Symptoms

The symptoms that I started to notice were a bloated stomach and my stomach was making strange noises. I also suffered from extreme tiredness but having just started working full time after being in university for 4 years I just put this down to returning to full time work. A couple of times I noticed blood after I had been to the toilet but didn’t think anything of it. I also thought that my slightly below average diet of being a student was to blame as well for my changes in my stomach/bowel behaviour.

So yes you could say that my bowel habits went from being normal for me to something that wasn’t quite right. I started taking Gaviscon and was going through a bottle a week. My mum refused to get me anymore in that week’s Asda shop and said I needed to go to the doctors instead.

I went to the doctors in October 2007, several blood tests, an MRI scan, CT scan an endoscopies and colonoscopy later I was eventually told the week before Christmas that I had Stage 3 bowel cancer and would need major surgery. January 2007 I had my large bowel removed, a permanent ileostomy bag followed by 6 months of chemotherapy. I would not wish this on anyone, I can honestly say my life was a speeding rollercoaster for the next year so if by sharing my story gets us all talking about our bowels we can save even more lives by detecting bowel cancer earlier.

Symptoms of Bowel Cancer (from Bowel Cancer UK)

  • Bleeding from your bottom and/or in your poo.
  • A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason.
  • A pain or lump in your tummy.

What Can We Do To Raise Awareness?

Why is bowel cancer such a taboo subject? I think it’s because we have to talk about our toilet habits in detail and being British women, this is something that we just don’t do, it’s unladylike, it’s completely out of character, it’s embarrassing and therefore makes us awkward and uncomfortable. I want to break this barrier as it means that people might start to think about their toilet and bowel habits and poo and it might just save someone’s life.

Men are definitely more open to talking about their toilet habits and do it quite openly without a care in the world so why can’t we? In the past I have known friends who won’t go to the toilet anywhere other than in their own homes, even leaving restaurants mid meal to drive home and come back, this is absolutely absurd! Is this shame, embarrassment, society as a whole, just like women don’t burp or fart occasionally. We all eat so we all have to get rid of it from our bodies somehow.

We really need to move past this and get talking about our poo as this is the only way we are going to raise awareness about this horrible disease. All my friends know I’ve had bowel cancer and I would love them to come up to me if they were suffering from any of the above symptoms and ask me anything about it. A few people have done over the years, I’ve even had a couple of messages on social media. I want people to be able to talk about poo to their friends and family, we talk about everything else relating to our bodies periods, boobs, sex, smear tests etc so why not?

If you or someone you know are worried or suffering from any of the above symptoms please please go and see your GP, don’t be embarrassed or ashamed they’re used to dealing with bowel habits etc

 

Louise is a part time Dental Hygienist and part time Coach for Cancer Survivors and Hypnotherapist based in Rhos on Sea. Louise is also a Cancer Survivor too. Having had a successful career as a Dental Hygienist and Hypnotherapist in North Wales in the UK; Louise began to realise that she could use her own experience of cancer and turn it into something positive to help and guide other survivors of cancer, life changing illnesses and events.

Since Louise’s cancer journey which started in 2007 she has volunteered at her local hospital supporting young people after they have had similar surgery, this was on a referral basis from the Specialist Nurse Team. She has also inadvertently been coaching people that she has met through work, friends and family for a few years now and it was through this work that Louise realised was so rewarding and by offering her support to these people she realised that this is what she really wanted to do with her life. The pleasure that Louise gets from helping support people is so rewarding, nothing else compares to it.

In 2016 she completed her training to be a Beautiful You Life Coach. This gave her the knowledge and experience in order to fulfil her dream of helping others who had been in the same position as her. Using her coaching skills and sometimes with a combination of hypnotherapy as well Louise guides her clients through the transition period and helps them to rediscover themselves and reignite the fire within their soul.

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