John, aged 56
“In 2011 I had noticed an on-going change of bowel habits along with stomach pain for about six months, but I didn’t think it was anything serious. However we were on holiday in France when I had an episode of obvious bleeding from the bottom.
On our return I went to the GP, who did a rectal examination then referred me for a colonoscopy and scans. The doctor told me I had a tumour at the junction of the colon and the rectum. I would need chemotherapy and radiotherapy to shrink the tumour before it could be removed. I had initial surgery to have a temporary ileostomy created and then a course of capecitabine and five weeks of radiotherapy, prior to more surgery to remove the tumour. My cancer was diagnosed at stage 3 with one lymph node involved; the tumour had grown through to the outer layer of the bowel wall. I had a further course of chemotherapy with oxaliplatin, and a third operation to reverse the ileostomy nearly a year later.
I found the hardest part in all this was telling my children and my parents. Cancer still has the power to scare, but once I accepted my predicament I was determined to be strong physically and mentally. I retired after 30 years in the Fire Service in the middle of my treatment and whilst disappointed not to have finished my career by attending one last fire, I accepted that my long-term health was the priority.
My wife Estelle has been a massive support. She suggested I start writing a ‘blog’, which I found helped me deal with my emotions. We are both Catholic and although not devout, I found this also helped me rationalise my situation.
My last CT scan was all clear. I think I am coping well now that surgery and treatment have ended. I had some residual neuropathy symptoms in my hands and feet, but they are reducing all the time. Now that I have my fitness back, I volunteer for a local charity that clears woodland, as I find being in the open air helps my mood.”