I’m still here - making the best of life after bowel cancer

Jason Nash was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 44. It was his wife – a nurse – who nagged him to go to his GP. She may have saved his life.

Here is Jason’s story.

It was my wife, who is a nurse, who first flagged up that something might be wrong.

Sam noticed that I was losing weight without trying and was tired a lot of the time. I wasn’t going to the bathroom as often as usual either.

She was worried and told me to go to the doctor. I did the usual male thing: ie, I said I’d go but didn’t.

Then we went on holiday to Turkey and I was in bed every night by 10pm because I was so tired.

When we got back on October 4, Sam put her foot down. So I went to see my GP the next day, just to keep her happy

That turned out to be the start of a traumatic time. A blood test on October 5 revealed that my blood sugars weren’t normal. The doctor also gave me a rectal examination because there was blood in my stools. He sent me to hospital the next day.   

Within four days, I was diagnosed with diabetes. I also had a colonoscopy and was told I had bowel cancer. It was a lot to take in.

When we got the cancer diagnosis, I’d gone to hospital with Sam. There was a doctor and two nurses in the room with the radio going on in the background. There was lots of chitter chatter and everyone was jollying along, trying to put me at ease as the colonoscopy got under way.

Suddenly the jollity stopped. I could see a mass on the screen in front of me.

The doctor carrying out the procedure stopped and said: “I’m 99 per cent certain that it’s cancer”.

My wife was waiting in a room outside. My face told her everything and she broke down.

The doctor was saying ‘We can beat this. We’ve caught it at an early stage’, but that’s not what we were hearing. All we heard was the word ‘cancer’.

The next thing was to have an operation to remove the tumour. I met my consultant on October 15 and was scheduled for surgery two weeks later on October 31, 2018.

That day was devastating. I was given the anaesthetic but woke up to discover that no operation had taken place.  The cancer was lower in the rectum than anticipated and the consultant halted the surgery – otherwise I’d have had a stoma for life.

With hindsight, he did the right thing. But I was pretty miffed at the time. I’d lost two months of work – as a freelance TV editor I couldn’t afford to take lots of time off. A second operation had to be booked with another consultant and that was a whole five weeks away. All I wanted was to get the cancer out of my body.

My surgery finally took place on November 30, 2018. They removed the tumour which was Stage 2 and my entire rectum and descending colon and carried out an ileostomy. I was given a choice of three months of chemotherapy as well as surgery, or just surgery – I chose the latter.  

There was a complication – an ileus (a obstruction of the bowel) – which meant I was in hospital for 16 days. I lost 8 kilos in five days and could hardly walk.

I hated changing the stoma bag, but it was only temporary. My ileostomy was reversed three months later in March 2019.

Now I feel quite fit. I can’t eat certain things any more. I never eat at work because I can’t always control my bowel. If I get an infection, I might have to go to the loo 20 times per day.

My bathroom habits are all over the place and the first thing I do when I go somewhere new is check where the loos are.

But I’m alive – as my wife reminds me every day.

Sam was incredible from Day One. When I left hospital she was adamant that I should get some exercise and pushed me every day to go a bit further and get a bit better.

She is the main reason that I’m alive. She didn’t moan once. She mopped me up more times than I can mention. She kept me going even when things looked bleak. I will never be able to repay her.

Jason with his grandaughter, Harper, in hospital.

My advice to anyone who is diagnosed with bowel cancer is not to give up. So long as you don’t ignore the symptoms and go and get checked, you will get better.

I may not have the same body that I once did, but I’ll take that any day rather than be dead. I’m still here and I’m making the best of it.