Mother of six Angela Dearlove was recovering from heart surgery when she tested positive for bowel cancer. Now receiving chemotherapy, the 56-year-old calls herself The_Gutsy _Nana and wants others to learn from her experience.  

“I had a letter out of the blue from the NHS offering me an appointment on the bowel screening programme. I cancelled the first appointment because I was having therapy after losing my mum to breast cancer, and going through the trauma of open heart surgery in November 2017. 

”I felt I was being nudged by my mum to go because it was constantly on my mind. So I rebooked the test for November 28, 2018. 

“I was told I had a large polyp in the bowel which would need removing. They booked me in for a colonoscopy when they would also check to see if there was anything else amiss.

“When the colonoscopy took place on December 18, they did not remove it because they thought it looked suspicious. Instead they took six biopsies and sent them away for testing. The doctor also requested a CT scan for that same day.

The specialist cancer nurse phoned me two days later: they thought I had bowel cancer. I felt numb. I was just about to leave the house to go to my work’s Christmas do. I spent the evening thinking ‘Oh my God – I’ve got cancer'.

”On December 27 I had a call from the specialist nurse to confirm it was cancer but luckily the CT scan did not show it had spread to other organs. I was invited to go in and have a chat but I declined. I wanted to digest it all first. 

“I had suffered some occasional bladder problems and IBS symptoms since my heart operation, and put it down to that. I hadn’t a clue the symptoms might be due to cancer. 

“On January 3 I had an appointment to discuss everything with the surgeon, and meet the specialist nursing team. My operation was booked for March 4. 

“I thought they’d remove a small section of bowel – after all, it was just a cancerous polyp. But in fact, they removed 23cm. 

“Nearly three weeks after the op on March 21, I had the phone call with the news that knocked me straight off my perch: the biopsies showed that the cancer was Stage 3. It was also in surrounding tissue, my lymph node, and I would need chemotherapy. 

“I had been sweeping everything under the carpet all this time and just couldn’t take in what I was being told.  It has taken a while to get my head around it. 

“My family have all been amazing - it’s been such a shock for them all. I think it’s worse for the family to deal with. I’m so lucky to have them and my two lovely granddaughters who have all kept me going. 

Now I’m on a mission to get people to take part in screening. It’s amazing that last year in my county (Dorset), 918 people were invited to a bowel screening test at 55, and only one third took up the offer.  

”I took a photo of a board which had the invites/uptakes of the screening programme in the colonoscopy unit of Poole Hospital because I couldn’t believe so many people didn’t go. I put it on my Instagram account  the_ Gutsy_Nana, and started sharing. 

“I’m now about to go through chemotherapy but my prospects are good. If I’d ignored that NHS letter, my story could have been very different.”

Angela has courageously shared her story in support of raising bowel cancer awareness as part of Bowel & Cancer Research's I've Got Guts campaign.

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