I’m not going to lie. I’ve been sat trying to write this post for over an hour but I can’t find the words. I could blame the chemo brain. My head is swimming and I can’t concentrate on the task ahead. Grappling for words feels like an impossible task, but the reality is that it isn’t my chemo brain. It’s me. I can’t find the words.
There are no words that adequately express how blown away I am to tell you that I am a winner of the Inspire award in the 2019 Brilliance in Blogging awards. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for shedding a little ray of light on what has been a little bit of a sh*tty year.
I was in the most amazing category full of inspiring bloggers doing wonderful things. I really did not expect to win. I certainly don’t consider myself to be the face of inspiration. Since being diagnosed with cancer I have had the honour of discovering amazing, inspiring, courageous people in the cancer community. Some of those people who sadly aren’t with us today. People who raised awareness when they were suffering, people who reached out to help others when they weren’t in a good place themselves, people who through it all get up day after day and put a smile on their face despite what cancer continues to throw at them.
Smashing The Myths That Surround Bowel Cancer
Bowel cancer is still mistakenly thought of as a disease that only affects older people but as I learnt, that’s simply not the case. Yes, bowel cancer is still considered relatively rare in younger people but there is a trend that suggests that bowel cancer in younger people is on the rise. When I learnt this I became passionate about sharing my cancer diagnosis and raising awareness. I wanted to document my journey and hopefully make people more aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer so that they wouldn’t have to go through what we have been through as a family.
More than 2,500 people under the age of 50 are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK every year. Out of those people, 3 out of 5 people will be diagnosed with Stage 3 or Stage 4 bowel cancer. I know that statistic only too well. To put it simply, younger people have a far lower chance of survival than they should. A study by Bowel Cancer UK found that younger people tend to delay going to the doctors because they don’t believe that they are at risk of bowel cancer. I have to hold my hands up and admit that I didn’t realise until quite late on that my symptoms could be bowel cancer. I read the headlines of news reports and, therefore, believed as I am young, leading a healthy lifestyle that I can’t be at risk of bowel cancer. However, as I now appreciate, cancer doesn’t care about those headlines; cancer is indiscriminate. You can do everything right and still get cancer.
Bowel Cancer In Younger People
Research has shown that GPs are often too quick to dismiss bowel cancer symptoms in younger people. I often replay the conversation I had with my GP and I wish that I had been more proactive in discussing my symptoms in relation to bowel cancer. I told him about my grandad and I was effectively told that it wouldn’t be bowel cancer because I was too young. I am not alone. Bowel Cancer UK found that 70% of younger people who asked their GP if it could be bowel cancer felt that their GP dismissed them because they were too young. This is wrong and can cause needless delays. It is important that doctors and patients act quickly. Bowel cancer is very curable when caught early.
I have been very open about documenting my journey so that I can highlight the realities of bowel cancer and the symptoms. I also wanted to equip people with knowledge so that they could go to their doctor prepared. As we know, research has shown that doctors often fail to recognise the symptoms of bowel cancer in younger patients. This isn’t a criticism of doctors but it highlights the need for better training. Younger patients will often have to fight to be taken seriously and fight to get referred for the relevant testing. I certainly believe that my doctor failed to take my symptoms seriously. As soon as I mentioned blood he should have been checking me. At first he thought IBS, then Crohn’s and, finally when he told me it was bowel cancer I remember him saying it was better to have bowel cancer than Crohn’s Disease. I think that he was probably trying to reassure me and he didn’t realise how advanced my cancer was. That experience still leaves me feeling angry. It didn’t feel like he was seeing me as a person. He didn’t fully appreciate that this cancer could kill me. His words were woefully inadequate.
I’m Not On My Own
I’m not on my own though. Younger people diagnosed often express their frustrations at a medical system that they feel has let them down. Something needs to change. Younger patients talk about lack of information, lack of support and a feeling of isolation. I have to say that I have had an amazing colorectal team and oncologist who have been superb with their support but on the other hand I am very reluctant to reach out to them because I am only too aware of how busy they are. There needs to be more support put in place. Patients talk about how they would like some sort of service that offers peer support from similar aged patients, support for partner/family and advice on diet and lifestyle. There is a noticeable gap in that information that is provided to younger patients and this needs to change. The NHS needs to commit to support ongoing training programmes so that doctors and other relevant healthcare professionals are aware that younger people can develop bowel cancer. The UK research community needs to work to improve the understanding of the genetic profile of bowel cancer tumours in younger people.
More Work To Do
There is so much work to be done and that’s why I really believe in sharing my experiences and continuing to raise awareness. I don’t consider myself inspiring as I feel that I am just doing what you would do too if you found yourself handed the sh*tty cancer card. I was determined that something positive would come out of this. I wasn’t going to let cancer shut me up and I will continue to shout about bowel cancer for as long as I can.
This Award Is For You
This award isn’t mine. It’s all of yours. The ones that have patiently read my blog as I’ve tried to untangle my emotions. The readers who came to my blog because they wanted to support a family member who was going through similar. This award is for all of the people who have to deal with cancer, those who have to endure chemo for the rest of their lives, those that cancer killed, those that are in remission but are now dealing with the mental ramifications. This award is for all of you because you continue to inspire ME on a daily basis and I couldn’t do it without you.