“I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2008 and classified as Dukes C, Stage 3, which meant that the cancer had spread into my lymph nodes. I had surgery, which was an anterior resection, and fortunately didn’t need a stoma or have any problems with bowel control. I was then given six months of chemotherapy – capecitabine and oxaliplatin. I struggled with the side-effects; cold sensitivity, severe fatigue, nausea and throat spasms after only a few cycles. I couldn’t complete the last three cycles due to developing neuropathy in both hands and feet.
When first diagnosed, I was reluctant to plan things too far ahead and worried about how well I would be when my first grandson was born. On bad days I wondered if I would even be around at all.
Two years later I had a recurrence in my liver so I had to have a liver resection, but needed no further treatment. I was still clear after three years, but when my consultant said I would only need annual scans I was rather apprehensive. We agreed that I could ask my GP to do blood tests every six months and then phone the oncologist’s office to check that she had seen the results, which was reassuring.
My husband and I love to travel, but have found it hard to get insurance. We eventually bought a policy which excluded anything to do with cancer, and so far we’ve limited our trips to Europe.
The lasting effects of neuropathy mean that I find standing or walking for long periods difficult, especially on hard surfaces such as in the supermarket. I’ve had to learn to manage the symptoms and I go swimming regularly, which helps. These days I keep busy teaching weekly exercise classes in the local swimming pool; I’ve joined a book club and attend a support group. I came across Beating Bowel Cancer’s online forum and read many of the threads. I thought it was a fantastically supportive place and eventually plucked up courage to write a post and received some great responses from people. This year I was thrilled to be asked to become a patient moderator. As a retired physiotherapist I am used to dealing hands-on with people, but now I’m embracing the digital world!”