Having a bowel cancer diagnosis can be a daunting and scary time. Bob has kindly shared his experience of being diagnosed and treated for bowel cancer, to provide some reassurance for others that there is life after cancer.
Bob was feeling slightly unwell before a family trip to New Zealand in 2017. He was experiencing some constipation and suffering with stomach pains. Some medication helped relieve the symptoms but after the holiday, Bob went to see his GP because the symptoms returned.
The GP referred Bob for some investigations at his local hospital and in May 2017, Bob had a colonoscopy. The hospital asked his wife to come and collect him and before they went home, the Oncology nurse and surgeon spoke to Bob and his wife.
“I knew something was serious when they asked us to go into a side room and then told me that it looked highly likely I had bowel cancer.”
Diagnosis and treatment
Bob was surprised at his diagnosis because he only had the one symptom and considered himself to be healthy. He ate well, didn’t smoke or drink and was a regular gym-goer. The surgeon explained that there is no knowing who will and won’t get cancer and it is not something you can always pin-point or prevent. Bob was 68 when he was diagnosed.
In July 2017, Bob went in for his surgery, to remove the tumour in his bowel. His operation was carried out using a machine called the da Vinci robot.
“The surgeon checked that I fully understood what was going to happen and I felt very well informed. I just wanted the tumour out – I felt ‘grubby’ knowing it was inside me and was so relieved when it was gone.”
The operation was a success and they managed to complete the procedure without a need for a colostomy bag. They were also able to confirm that Bob’s cancer had not spread. Bob was then put onto four rounds of chemotherapy and some radiotherapy as well, followed by another round of chemotherapy which started in January 2018. When Bob’s treatment ended, he was given the all-clear and told that he didn’t need to be seen again for 6 months. Bob said it felt odd being told there was now a break in his appointments and so he started to attend a Dorset Cancer counselling group, which his oncology nurse had shared details of. He found the support to be extremely helpful.
“I still go to their monthly coffee mornings; it is a lovely group that I didn’t think I needed until I went.”
Bob has been having 6-monthly blood tests and annual scans since his treatment finished and earlier this year, he had a colonoscopy that was all clear. He has been told by his cancer team that if his next round of blood tests and scans in July are all clear – then he will be discharged.
“I was a bit anxious when they said that which might sound odd, but it is like your support blanket is being taken away! I have a number I can call though, and I would not hesitate to seek advice from my GP if I noticed any changes in my health.”
Bob was keen to reassure people that might be putting off going to see their GP that cancer can be successfully treated, and he is enjoying getting back on with life.
Watch Bob’s video message here:
Visit our bowel cancer screening page to find out more about the national screening programme to detect bowel cancer in people who do not have symptoms.
Visit the Bowel Cancer UK website for more information about the condition, and how to support Bowel Cancer Awareness Month in April 2022.