Paul, a joiner and builder from Manchester was diagnosed seven years ago with advanced bowel cancer, aged just 38.
“Things seem to get bad quite quickly. I was on the toilet a lot; I had bad diarrhoea for four months and I had zero energy. I use to go home and sleep through my lunch break. I knew something was wrong. Eventually I went to my GP, although it was a locum doctor there at the time. I saw her three times. I felt like no one would take me seriously.I decided to take matters in to my own hands and pay to be tested privately.
Within 13 days I had been told I had bowel cancer, and had an operation. The cancer was stage 4 as it had spread to my lymph nodes, liver and lungs. I had a huge chunk of my bowel removed, and had to have an ileostomy bag. I later had a liver resection and then nine months of chemotherapy because I was on a special trial. Chemo made me so tired, my brain was foggy, and I had a sore mouth and tingling in my hands and feet. It was a really tough time; you don’t know if you’re going to live, you have to take each day as it comes.
The medical staff at The Christie Hospital were just amazing. They literally restored my faith in human kind. I felt unbelievably supported by them throughout. Also my wife and sister were constants, as were my friends Joe and Dobbin. They didn’t change. We just had a laugh and a joke like we did before cancer. That was so important to me.
I didn’t have any counselling because I felt that I had enough support at home. I was more interested in the practical side of it all rather than the emotional side.
Once I had the reversal of the bag, I needed to wear a nappy for a while in case of accidents. I could eat like an angel and still be on the toilet for most of the day. Everything had to revolve around the toilet. I would either have to ask people if I could use their toilet, or make sure there was a portaloo on site. These days I still have to have undies in the car, undies in my bag, I have to always be prepared and just get on with it really.
I am never going to be exactly the same as I was before, nobody with cancer is I don’t think. I am not as physically strong as I was and I get very tired but I don’t let it dictate me and still lead an active life. I go out on my bike, I go to the gym, I take my kids to football and boxing. You’ve got to get a balance between enjoying life and being healthy. I don’t want to deprive myself of anything. My wife and kids love me regardless. My wife was the light that never went out, she truly was amazing.”