“In 2006 I was doing well; a healthy diet, gym, weight down and looking forward to a Panama Canal cruise with my wife Pam. I’d always had an ‘acid tummy’ and the occasional bout of piles, but they weren’t problems. Then one day I bled profusely from the bottom. My GP did a rectal examination and blood test and referred me urgently to hospital for a colonoscopy. Stage 2 bowel cancer was diagnosed – a golf-ball sized tumour in the rectum – and some polyps in the upper bowel.
Our youngest son was sitting his finals at University, our daughter her ‘A’ levels. My only concern was for them. I thought, ‘We can have our cruise and sort things after we return, by then the exams will be done’, but my consultant wanted to remove the tumour immediately, so the holiday went! The surgery was an abdominal perineal resection, with a permanent stoma formed and I was advised to have a course of 5FU chemotherapy as a safeguard. I quickly got used to the stoma, but things went wrong after chemotherapy finished.
I returned to work as an engineer, but my head was a mess. I’d easily become fatigued, stressed, have difficulty communicating and dealing with the unknown. I’d get brain ‘fog’ and tingling in my mouth and finger ends. My employers were superb. I struggled for three years, trying all kinds of medication including anti-depressants, visits to psychologists and a cognitive behavioural therapist. I finally retired on medical grounds aged 57.
I’m still searching for a solution. Things are much better, but I still get tired and need chill time alone. Physically I lead a normal life now. Being a colostomist really isn’t a problem – although a toilet must have a washbasin in the same room.
Since my operation we’ve travelled a lot, to Vancouver to see our youngest son and granddaughter, New York, Barcelona, Paris and two cruises. We’ve recently moved from Cockermouth to Manchester to be closer to our daughter and son. We’re walking a lot, going to shows and concerts and I’m doing the cooking. Love it!”