“During my cancer journey, I became an avid cyclist and one day I was watching the Lance Armstrong documentary. The man is very controversial but I respect him for the cancer journey he made. He raised an amazing amount of money for cancer research and really put it out in the public domain for all to see.
One quote he said which stuck with me was “The truth is, if you asked me to choose between winning the Tour de France and cancer, I would choose cancer. Odd as it sounds, I would rather have the title of cancer survivor than winner of the Tour, because of what it has done for me as a human being, a man, a husband, a son, and a father.”
I couldn’t agree more. Cancer is awful but has truly changed me for better, as a person.”
“I experienced bright blood on toilet paper after going to the toilet. I saw my GP 3 times and was told it was piles and nothing to worry about. After living with the same problem for 3 years and awaiting the birth of my baby boy, I went to a different doctor and was sent for a colonoscopy in May 2017.
The surgeon found a tumor in my large bowel and told me the same day there was a high percentage it was cancerous. I was then sent for a CT scan to make sure cancer hadn’t spread. The scan showed the extent of the tumor which measured 6cm and a spot of something suspicious on my liver. I was then sent for MRI scans of my bowel and liver. This was to give a much more in-depth image of the organs.
The scan of the bowel showed that the tumor had grown outside of the bowel and had infected surrounding lymph nodes. Luckily, the spot on my liver was a watery cyst and nothing to worry about. I was classed at that point as a stage 3 Cancer with T4 tumor at the age of 27.”
“After diagnosis, I met my oncologist. He explained the treatment path I would take and it all began within a week or so. He said, “we would use chemotherapy and radiotherapy to shrink cancer as it is so big and then the curative measure will be surgery to remove it from your body”. The first stop on the cancer killing train was Chemotherapy. I was scheduled to have 3 rounds over 9 weeks. I started in July 2017. Round 1 went OK, a few side effects but nothing too bad. When taking chemotherapy, you have checkups with your oncologist and regular blood tests.
I started round 2 and after a few days I woke up sweating and disorientated. I remember walking into the bathroom and I collapsed. My wife took me to the hospital. They checked my blood and found my white blood cells where elevated. I had an infection which was treated with antibiotics and was OK after a few days.
I then turned up at the hospital ready for my final round 3 but was told my oncologist wanted to see me before I started, that was a little strange I thought. He explained that they will look for a marker in the blood called a CEA marker. This is used in bowel cancer treatment to see if the treatments are working. If the number goes down you are going the right way. Unfortunately, mine was increasing. The decision was made that I was to stop chemotherapy as it was having no effect and I was to have a colostomy bag fitted which requires an operation and a stay in the hospital, and I will then begin radiotherapy. All this will happen in the next 24 hours.
Other than several broken bones which were in and out the same day, I had never spent a night in a hospital. I was now facing several days and an operation. I remember thinking how much this is going to change my life. If you’re not sure what a colostomy entails, it is when an incision is made in your stomach and your bowel stitched to the outside of your skin. This then bypasses your bum and you poo into a bag which sticks to you. I’m a very positive person and think my way around most things. It has changed my life, in fact, I probably do more now than I did before the colostomy operation.
Once I recovered from the operation, I had further scans to plan the radiotherapy treatment. I was told that the tumor has now grown to 9cm and this would explain my groin and leg pain I was experiencing
I had to attend the hospital every day, Monday to Friday for treatment and had to take chemotherapy tablets morning and night for 5 weeks. Within the first 4 days of treatment, all my symptoms were gone. It was truly a miracle. I couldn’t believe how well the radiotherapy was working. You still have your weekly checkups with the oncologist and the usual blood tests to check your CEA amongst other things. When I started radiotherapy, my CEA was over 40. It dropped week on week. The oncologist added on 3 extra days as it was working so well, and by the end, my CEA was 2.4, which is what it should be.
I then had 8 weeks off to allow my bowel to repair itself from the intense treatment and I then prepared to have the section of cancerous bowel and lymph nodes removed.
D-Day arrived on 23rd January 2018. I remember thinking I have had an operation before which was 2 hours long and spent 3 days in the hospital. This will be a walk in the park. How wrong I was. I remember waking up after the operation and I asked how long I was out for, 7 hours she said!!!!
I felt rough for several days and had some complications but was home with my family after 7 days.
At the beginning of this journey, the initial surgeon who broke the news to me did explain that due to the tumor being so low down into my pelvis, and how big it was, surgery would be very tricky. The surgeon who operated on me was a specialist in key-hole surgery and he said when he looked inside, he couldn’t see a tumor! He looked from 3 different angles, but couldn’t find anything. He proceeded with key-hole surgery instead of open surgery and it was a complete success. Radiotherapy has shrunk the 9cm tumor to nothing!!
After any cancer surgery, the organs and tissues are sent to histology to be analyzed, to see if any cancer cells are still present. This then gives the oncologist an idea on further treatment. The report came back and nothing was found in my bowel or lymph nodes which were removed.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was then given the good news that no further treatment was required and I would only need blood tests and scans from now on.”
Motivation to fight cancer
“My motivation was my family. I was 2 years married to my beautiful wife and had a 2-month-old baby boy at home when I was told I had cancer.”
The biggest hindrance
“It was awful hearing the chemotherapy was not working and the tumor was growing and not shrinking. It isn’t a nice form of treatment and it does make you feel ill. It sometimes made me feel annoyed that I went through it for nothing, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t working in other parts of my body.”
Message to other fighters
“Always celebrate the little things no matter how small. I always classed every step forward as a win whether that was having my colostomy operation or seeing the CEA number fall.”
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