“It’s my dad I have to thank,” says Catherine

“My dad died in 2016. It was his heart that gave out in the end. But he had also been diagnosed with bowel cancer in his final years and he’d told me what the symptoms were: he went to the loo and noticed some blood.

"I had similar symptoms a few years later. I also had changing bowel movements – it wasn’t unusual to have to go to the bathroom three or four times before I left for work in the morning.

"I assumed it was just piles. But my mum, very aware of what happened to dad, was really worried and kept nagging me to go to the doctor. 

"Finally, I did go to my GP, just for peace of mind. I wasn’t feeling very well – it was nothing serious – just a bit ‘not right’.  I thought they’d tell me it was piles and send me home.

"Because of my family medical history, however, the GP decided to refer me to hospital in Rotherham where they gave me ‘the finger test’, and a colonoscopy which was pretty uncomfortable.

They found big polyps in my bowel and we made an appointment to get them removed.

"They said the polyps weren’t anything to worry about but when the consultant did the procedure, it was obvious something was wrong. The atmosphere in the room changed.

"I asked if everything was all right, and the consultant said ‘no’. They’d found another polyp – and it was cancerous.

"I was in total disbelief. It meant an operation to remove part of my bowel. I’d been struck with the same cancer as my dad.  The tumour was in exactly the same place. History was repeating itself.

"I couldn’t get my head around it all for a few days. I got angry that this disease had got me. The only ammunition I could muster was my mindset. There was no plan B – I had to beat this disease.

"Every night before I went to sleep, I made three promises to myself: I would have keyhole surgery; I wanted a successful operation with no permanent stoma; and I would heal and recover really quickly.

I was determined to get through and beat bowel cancer for both of us.

"My mum was really worried. I tried to keep calm – there was no point in making a fuss. I knew I had a fight on but I also knew there was every chance I’d win through.

Early diagnosis helps save lives

"My operation took place in July 2017. They found the cancer was only Stage 1 – they’d caught it really early. It hadn’t spread to the lymph nodes. The cancer was removed and I didn’t need chemo or radiotherapy.

"I went back to work six weeks later and now I’m totally well. I have a two-inch scar and a shorter bowel so food obviously passes through me more quickly than it used to. I have to watch what I eat and occasionally get caught short but it’s a small price to pay.

"I count my blessings that I got the best result.

"I have no doubt that I have my dad to thank, and my mum for nagging me to go to the doctor. My mum is over the moon. My GP and the consultant at Rotherham Hospital were absolutely brilliant. My family and friends were really supportive.

"My advice to anyone else is not to ignore the symptoms. If you have blood in your faeces or a change in bowel habits, it could be nothing. But it could be something. And if there is something to worry about, the earlier you catch it, the better. I’m the proof."

From the many bowel cancer stories we have heard from our supporters, we are well aware of the importance of early diagnosis.

Learn the symptoms and be Bowel Cancer Aware