Severe menstrual pain and night sweats. I began to visit the GP in early January 2016. I was initially given strong pain killers, but when these did not resolve the issue, I received a trans-vaginal ultrasound scan that did not show any abnormalities. I was then referred to a gynaecologist, who arranged a laparoscopy. However, before this could take place, symptoms worsened – I became very constipated with constant abdominal pain. A colonoscopy was requested by my GP, but when the appointment did not materialise after three weeks I decided to go privately. The colonoscopy revealed a blockage, and a subsequent CT scan revealed that the cancer had spread to my liver and peritoneum. I was diagnosed with Stage 4 bowel cancer.
I was initially seen through the NHS, and was offered chemotherapy and surgery but without any conviction that it would make a difference to my prognosis. Indeed, I was advised that I had about 18 months to live. I decided to seek a second opinion, and was referred by my GP to a consultant at the QE Hospital in Birmingham, who advised me to see Mr Youssef instead.
I met Mr Youssef in May 2016. Immediately I felt at ease. He explained everything clearly and gently – there was no glossing over the gravity of the situation, but he gave me hope where there had previously been none. This has helped me to stay positive and focused throughout my treatments.
I received six rounds of chemotherapy from June 2016 to August 2016 under the care of Dr James Good, who has also been a stalwart in my journey. Having responded well to treatment, I underwent HIPEC in November 2016 at Good Hope hospital, and this was followed by a further six chemotherapy sessions from January to March 2017. Treatment continues – I have had two ablations for liver tumours, and am about to start a course of cyberknife today for a further persistent offender.
Be persistent – I had several seemingly unconnected niggles that wouldn't go away, which were only ever considered in isolation and often dismissed as a symptom of age. However, I was a fit 46 year old running half marathons at the time and knew something was wasn't right. Keep going back to your GP!