Here I am with my beautiful daughter, Harriet, good to go for the 2012 Edinburgh Moonwalk

YOU are feeling tired, maybe you lost a little weight and you’re not on a diet . . . well, we all get knackered from time to time, right?

Anyway, you’re fit(ish), perhaps very fit, eat a balanced diet, could be vegetarian, young or old . . . and yet still you secretly worry.

Your tummy upset has lasted, on and off, for a couple of weeks. Toilet routines have changed, there’s even been a bit of blood afterwards. You explain it away: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, piles, ‘just my metabolism’, effects of a busy life — that sort of thing.

Perhaps you check out the symptoms on a website which says, reassuringly, something like ‘Most people with these symptoms do not have bowel cancer’.

Well maybe so. But maybe not.

Of course, the website almost certainly goes on to advise that you should still get checked out by your GP, but more likely than not you convince yourself that you don’t really fit the profile of someone with bowel cancer, a highly treatable and curable malignancy, especially when diagnosed early. The problem is that going to the doctor can feel like a faff for symptoms too easily attributable to those other things.

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness month. The trouble with awareness is that it doesn’t necessarily equate to action. And it’s action as well as awareness that Bowel Cancer UK are focusing on this month.

So, what is the classic profile of someone with bowel cancer? 

  • A 35-year-old deputy head teacher who’s a bit of a fitness freak and a vegetarian… you can read more about her (you may have seen her on Breakfast TV recently) here
  • A pharmacist in his early 50s who walks his dogs and is training to be a hypnotherapist – find out more about him here.
  • A 40-year-old teetotal knitting and sewing vegan who’s studying for a doctorate who blogs here
  • A 39-year-old beautician who, as far as I’m aware (and you’re probably relieved to know), does not blog!
  • And it’s me, yes ME: a 53-year-old (when diagnosed) woman who walks marathons and enjoys a madly busy life..

I am eternally grateful for trained medical professionals who do not find my body embarrassing, revolting or unapproachable. They just want me to be well.
If you are in the slightest bit worried about stuff to do with your bowel, don’t hang about: go to the doctor. Doctors are not embarrassed about putting a finger in your rectum to check you out, they do not find it an inconvenience to refer you for a colonoscopy, send you for blood tests, or get you to do poo sticks (not Pooh Sticks, that’s something else entirely!).

“The decision to complete the screening test was the best decision I have ever made in my life. Had I not taken that course of action, there is no doubt in my mind I would not be alive today. Just do it!” — Craig

And that’s another thing, if you are of an age where you receive the testing kit in the post (screening is for over-60s in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (over-50s in Scotland: yes, I know, not one of my friends listed above is over 60!), don’t put it to one side for later. Do it. Now.

Here is a list of possible symptoms you might experience:
• Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
• A change in bowel habit lasting three weeks or more
• Unexplained weight loss
• Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
• A pain or lump in your tummy
Find out more at Bowel Cancer UK


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