I had my tumour removed after my radiotherapy treatment. You’re fast-tracked through the treatment, so there’s not much time to process at each stage.
As Jeremy Hunt is Minister for Health, I named my tumour after him. Jeremy has been cut from my body and donated to science. I can think of no better tribute to the Rt Hon member for South West Surrey.
It took 8 days before I could eat again, and 10 days before I was discharged. Hospital food isn’t the most appealing, but the first taste of dry white bread and marmalade was sensational. My digestion has changed hugely since – to begin with, I couldn’t tolerate high fibre. I avoid rich food even now.
I have an ileostomy. When the surgeon removed the damaged part of my colon, he had to leave it to heal for a while. The ileostomy bypasses the affected area.
LIVING WITH A BAG ON THE BELLY
Life with a bag is OK. I have to empty it regularly, sometimes 8 or 10 times a day. It leaves a bulge on my waistline, and it sometimes peeks out when it’s curious.
I’ve had to change my diet since the start of treatment. I also have to eat more, because I don’t absorb everything at present.
I have to protect the stoma, which is the little stump of colon that sticks out, from being hurt from things like when I squat while gardening. I haven’t done much, so it’s not been a major problem. The seatbelt in the car can irritate the stoma, so I protect it with a jumper.
PREP for BOWEL CANCER
Tattoos: you get tattooed before it all starts. Just three pricks – one on my abdomen, and one on each hip. This is to line you up for the machine.
Water: I also had to drink a jug of water each morning, so my bowel was the same shape each time.
I had appointments 5 days a week before work, so I could carry on as normal – or as close as it gets.
I took capecitabine tablets every day. They’re so toxic I had to wear gloves before popping them in my mouth. The first time, I took 30 minutes to get my head around swallowing them. Not appealing.
AN UNEXPECTED SIDE-EFFECT
The capecitabine gave my face and upper body a skin peel. A lot of sun damage scabbed over and sloughed off over the 6 weeks.
I would cycle to St Thomas’s, cycle to work, then cycle home – about 18 miles. I saw a few cyclists in the treatment area.
No major effects to begin with, but serious runs every weekend for the latter stages. That, and tiredness.
RADIO + CHEMO
I have had radiotherapy with adjuvant chemotherapy.
I then had surgery to remove the part of my bowel where the tumour was sited, plus the two lymph nodes attached. I lost the tumour, and gained an ileostomy, which means I have a bag on my belly for my waste matter.
After a month’s rest and recovery, I began six months of chemotherapy, which finished in September 2017.
I am now waiting for the final surgery to reverse the ileostomy. This won’t happen anytime soon, thanks to the austerity programme of George Osborne, Boris Johnson, Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt.