I felt numb when they said it was cancer, says Angela

Angela Dearlove was recovering from heart surgery when she tested positive for bowel cancer. Now receiving treatment, the 56-year-old calls herself 'The Gutsy Nana' and wants others to learn from her experience. Here is her story.

“I had a letter out of the blue from the NHS offering me an appointment on the bowel cancer screening programme.

“I cancelled the first appointment because I was having therapy after losing my mum to breast cancer and going through my own 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 to be removed. I was then given an appointment for a colonoscopy when they would check to see if there was anything else amiss.

“When the colonoscopy took place on December 18, they took six biopsies and sent them away. The doctor requested a CT scan for that same day.

”The specialist cancer nurse phoned me two days later: they thought it was 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 indicated it hadn’t 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 bladder problems and IBS symptoms occasionally since recovering from my heart operation and put the symptoms down to that. I hadn’t a clue it might be cancer.

“On January 3, 2019 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. They had tested the biopsies and the cancer was Stage 3. It was so in surrounding tissue, my lymph node, and I would need chemotherapy.

”I had four rounds of chemotherapy. I didn’t take to well to it, experiencing terrible nausea, sickness, neuropathy and breathlessness. They were not sure if I should have the last session because I’d been having problems with heart arrhythmia so I was sent to see a cardiologist before they could go ahead.

”It’s now been eight months since I finished chemotherapy and I’m still recovering from the physical after-effects.  My mental health has taken a bit of a battering too.

I don’t think I realised what it would all do to my mind. It just pops back in whenever it feels like it. It has been hard to try and get over that side.

”I recently travelled to India alone after receiving the news I had the all-clear. To be honest it was probably a bit too soon but I pushed through and carried on with it.

"Once I got to the South I walked a little further, practised yoga and mindfulness every day and it’s helped me more than I could have imagined.

“I was very lucky to get home with the Coronavirus starting to take hold in the UK. I came straight home to self-isolation and spent Mother’s Day and my birthday alone. It all felt a bit surreal.

“I’m doing well now although the chemotherapy was harder than I ever thought it would be.

”I would urge everyone to take part in bowel cancer screening. If I’d ignored that NHS letter in 2018, my story could have been very different.”

gutsy nana bowel cancer

Instagram: @thegutsynana