I was diagnosed with a tumour in my bowel in September 2015, at the age of 65.
I had taken a home bowel screening test in August 2015 which I sent away just before going on holiday. I’d been doing this routine test every 2 years since it was first introduced and genuinely had no concerns as I hadn’t experienced any symptoms. Therefore, it came as a shock on returning from holiday to find I had abnormal screening results. After a colonoscopy in late September, they found a tumour in my bowel which was confirmed as being at Stage 2 level. Following this diagnosis, things began to move very quickly.
In the space of about six weeks I had a CT scan, a consultation, and a date arranged for an operation at the end of October at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow. The surgery to remove the tumour took around four and a half hours. My main concern at the time was the pain I might experience following the operation – but it turned out to be far less uncomfortable than I expected. I spent a fortnight recovering in hospital and didn’t eat for 10 days whilst my digestive system was sorting itself out, during which time I lost 2 stone in weight.
On leaving hospital, my strength and appetite gradually returned and by Christmas I had regained most of my weight loss. I then had another check-up and was recommended to take an eight course cycle of chemotherapy tablets until May 2016. The chemo had some side effects – I was more tired than usual, I lost some hair (I’ve got a thick head of hair so it wasn’t too noticeable!) and I got really sore blistered feet, which apparently can be common.
Since my diagnosis and treatment, I’m still conscious of my operation and continue to monitor my health and lifestyle. I walk regularly and spend time in the garden, but don’t overexert myself. I’ve switched to a high-fibre diet, eat more fruit and vegetables and drink less alcohol. Earlier this year my wife and I managed to go on a two and a half week holiday and safari trip in South Africa, which we had rescheduled due to my chemo treatment. I have recently had a further colonoscopy and CT scan which have come back clear, which is really encouraging. At the moment, I feel great and try to always maintain a positive outlook, aided in no small way by the fantastic support I’ve received from my family and close friends throughout this time.
I know people who have thrown their screening tests away, maybe because they find the process of the kits unappealing or they have a fear of the results. But I’m really thankful I’ve always completed mine regularly. I often wonder, if I hadn’t done the test, how far the cancer would have advanced before I was aware of any symptoms. The NHS gets much maligned for many things but, in my case, the system worked and this test saved my life.
Bruce will be speaking at the Scottish Patient Day in Glasgow on Saturday 24 February 2018. To register for the event visit https://www.beatingbowelcancer.org/how-we-can-help/patient-days/patient-day-scotland/