Elaine, a mental health support worker who lives in Lowton, Warrington, had suffered stomach pains for many years but, on repeated visits to a GP, was told it was probably Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
“I had always felt there was something wrong and had sought treatment on a number of occasions but it was as I looked over Paris on what should have been a memorable occasion that I decided I was going to seek out someone who would really take me seriously as soon as I got home,” she said.
Elaine met with Consultant Colorectal Surgeon Mr Mark Tighe at Spire Cheshire Hospital, when tests showed she had Stage 3 Bowel Cancer and needed operating on immediately.
“I was told I had cancer on the Thursday evening and was going into surgery the following day,” she explained. “Everything happened so quickly it is all a bit of a blur to be honest."
“Obviously I was shocked and upset to be told I had cancer but I also had a strange feeling of relief that they had actually found out what had been wrong with me – I just kept thinking ‘if only others had listened sooner’,” she said.
Mr Tighe removed the tumour, along with part of the large and small intestine and Elaine was given a stoma – an opening in the stomach that allows waste to pass into an ileostomy bag.
Seven months later, after finishing her course of chemotherapy, the operation was reversed. Because her cancer had reached stage three the surgery was then followed by course of chemotherapy.
“If anything that was the toughest part of all,” explained Elaine. “I rarely got out of bed, I was still very weak from the surgery so to then have chemo on top was very draining. I wasn't eating as I felt so sick and, after three months of both intravenous and tablet-form chemotherapy, it was decided to stop the drip chemo and to continue with the tablets."
“It was a long and emotional journey but now – seven years on – I am cancer free and enjoying life to the full. I have regular checks and everything is going well.”
Now, as part of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, which runs throughout April, Elaine is urging others not to be put off seeking medical advice if they think they have bowel problems of any kind.
“Never be embarrassed to tell you GP and if you don’t get the response you want then keep on pushing. There is always a chance that your problem could be IBS – but it could be cancer and you need to know for definite if it is."
“Bowel cancer caught early is very treatable and, in many such cases, chemotherapy is not necessary after surgery. You are not being troublesome and you aren’t nagging you are simply seeking the correct treatment as soon as possible.”