Ronnie Tyler from Worthing threw her bowel cancer screening test in the bin when it arrived after her 60th birthday. Two years later she was diagnosed with bowe...l cancer and here she tells us why it’s so important to take the test.
"My GP diagnosed me with piles, I went back and forth for around 3 years and was continually told the same thing. One locum GP told me if I was passing bright red blood there was nothing to worry about - so wrong!
I was depressed reaching my 60th birthday. When the bowel cancer screening kit came through the post I just didn't want to acknowledge it, so stupidly binned it. I now know just how important screening is.
In January 2013 fed up with passing blood after every bowel movement, I saw a different GP; it never crossed my mind it could be bowel cancer. He fast-tracked me for a sigmoidoscopy. I was never in any pain and thought it would be nothing to worry about, I felt fit and well and was working full-time as a legal secretary.
'Just to be sure' they said, 'we will give you a colonoscopy'. It was scary watching the tube go round my colon, then they mentioned biopsy and CT scan. At that point, I felt panic, naturally.
I wasn’t told my results at the time, instead, I was called back to the hospital for an endoscopy. I asked the junior doctor why I was having this endoscopy? What was going on? It was then I was clumsily told that I had bowel cancer. I was stunned and numb, I had a friend with me, he cried- it was obviously a huge shock to him too.
During the CT scan I was found to have a gastrointestinal tumour (GIST) in my stomach, hence the endoscopy. After another biopsy, they decided the GIST would be dealt with separately as it was very slow growing.
The CT scan also showed multiple lesions in my body. They thought my cancer was stage 4 and if it was they would proceed to the palliative route with no surgery, however, they also said it could be widespread adenopathy due historical Sarcoidosis, (a disease resulting in areas of inflammation causing pain and swelling). I had further x-rays and was so relieved to be told it was not secondary cancer, I was then booked in for surgery.
In May 2013, I had a lower anterior bowel resection. I remember coming around from the anaesthetic, feeling my body and saying with relief 'keyhole and no bag'. My daughter picked me up from hospital 5 days later, and I recovered well and quickly.
I had stage 3 bowel cancer. In July, I started IV and tablet form chemo on a 2-week cycle for 12 weeks. After cycle 4 I ended up in ICU with sepsis, so the IV chemo was stopped early but continued with the tablets after a 6-week break. I suffered neuropathy and awful constant nausea. In November 2013, I returned to work 2 days a week still on the chemo tablets.
In August 2014, the GIST was removed from my stomach via laparoscopic wedge resection.
I got on with my life and in September 2015, following a routine mammogram, a cancerous tumour was found in my right breast. Thankfully it was caught early, tiny and only grade 1; after breast conserving surgery and radiotherapy I was pronounced clear, although I'm now on Letrozole for 5 years.
I'm in remission for the bowel cancer and have annual CT scans and blood tests, my 3rd scan is due in May 2016.
My grandchildren live far away and are very important, I want to see them grow up and for them to be old enough to remember me. Everyone is different, I just want my life back to how it used to be.
If you feel something isn't right, even if the doctor says you’re fine, keep pushing, persevere with it.
Had I taken the screening test in 2011 I probably would have only been stage 1. I was put off by reading not to do the test if passing any blood and at the time my GP told me it was my piles. So coupled with that and not wanting to do the test anyway I ignored it! I now tell everyone how important it is to complete it."
You can read more about screening on our website: https://www.beatingbowelcancer.org/screening