“My husband, Martin, was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer in March 2016 at the age of 56. We live and work in Cyprus and before the diagnosis, enjoyed a happy, active and outdoorsy life with our two rescue dogs.
“Martin had ignored changes in his bowel habits for quite a long time. It was when he found himself getting up two or three times a night to go to the loo that he sought advice from his GP. Initial tests came back negative, but then a colonoscopy revealed a tumour.
“Following a temporary loop colostomy, Martin was given four cycles of Xelox in August 2016, followed by twenty eight sessions of chemo-radiotherapy with Capecitabine tablets, which successfully shrank his tumour. Surgery to remove Martin’s tumour in November 2016 resulted in a second colostomy. This was followed by four cycles of adjuvant chemotherapy in January this year which had to be stopped due to Martin developing DVT in his left leg.
“In the early days, once the initial shock of the diagnosis had passed, we reacted to the news in very different ways.
“Martin coped by sitting quietly and watching trashy TV, and was initially reluctant to tell family and friends as he ‘didn’t want to spread the misery’. Whereas I began researching information – looking at the pros and cons of various treatment options – so that, when Martin was ready to talk and ask questions, I had the answers.”
“I discovered Beating Bowel Cancer’s online forum very soon after Martin’s diagnosis. “Once I found it – I didn’t look for anything else.
“Immediately after Martin’s diagnosis we experienced information overload. I found just reading the posts on the forum really helpful. There is always someone there who understands exactly what you are going through. It was a huge relief to be able to find information to help Martin and, equally importantly, support for me. Eventually I felt able to write my own posts and formed virtual friendships that mean a lot to me.
“It’s been fantastic to go to the private, carers-only part of the forum and let off steam. If I can’t sleep at three in the morning, I write a post then go back to sleep and by morning someone has replied. It really helps to make you feel less alone.
“Once I felt more stable, I found I enjoyed helping others on the forum. It was important to me that I was able to create something good out of a bad situation. I was able to use what has happened to Martin and me, and turn it into a positive thing to help others.
“I’ve now become a Beating Bowel Cancer forum moderator, one of my roles being and one of her roles is to greet and welcome new forum members.
“A recent scan of Martin’s abdomen and pelvis has shown no evidence of disease at the original tumour site, in the liver, throughout the pelvis or in the lymph nodes – this is so positive and means that no further chemotherapy is necessary. Even better, of the two suspicious dots that were found in his lung during a previous scan, one is completely resolved and the other is unchanged.
“This feels like such good news after the past 15 months: Martin is extremely well in himself and the results are a big step towards getting both his colostomies reversed.
“My advice for anyone worried about possible symptoms of bowel cancer is to visit their GP – just go, go, go. Don’t die of embarrassment. Martin wishes he had gone to his GP at least six months earlier. If he had, his tumour would have been smaller and he would have had to have less surgery.”