When Juanita Shiells first went to a doctor with symptoms of bowel cancer, she was told she had piles. The diagnosis was soon changed and the 36-year-old mum was treated successfully. Now she considers herself lucky to be alive. Here is her story.

“I didn’t worry too much when I noticed blood in my stools. It was my husband who pushed me to go to the doctor. 

I was referred to the local hospital where a second doctor told me I had haemorrhoids. I was given an injection and sent on my way. That was June 2016.

The trouble was that I was still finding blood in my poo. I also had stomach pains and was going to the loo more frequently.

I made another trip to the doctor to find out why. This time I was told “Well, you’ve had children, haven’t you.”

It was six months later in December 2016 that a different doctor finally sent me for a colonoscopy.

That’s when all the alarm bells went off – the colonoscopy team came up against a blockage in my bowel and had to stop the procedure.

I was taken into a side room and they called my husband Gareth in who was waiting for me in the car park.

They sat us both down and said they’d found a tumour which might be cancerous.

The clinic said I’d have an operation within weeks and seemed confident that they could remove it.

It was the first time I’d heard the word ‘cancer’ mentioned and it was such a shock.  There was no history of bowel cancer in my family. I was only 36 years old with two children, aged 4 and 2.

I didn’t think bowel cancer happened to someone my age.

I went to work on the Monday in a bit of a daze – I didn’t know what else to do. I was caught up in this bubble where our whole lives were on hold. The date for the operation wasn’t until January.

The day before Christmas Eve I got a call from a nurse who’d received the results of my tests.

She rang to say there were no other signs of cancer in my body – it hadn’t spread. She wanted me to know so that we could have a good Christmas.

It was an amazing feeling. My husband cuddled me so hard that it hurt.

We decided to have the best Christmas ever – not with sausage rolls but Prosecco!

I couldn’t help feeling that it might be my last, that I wouldn’t see my kids grow up -  this was it.

The operation to remove the tumour was a success – I had an anterior resection.

The cancer was Stage 2.

A period of chemotherapy followed. There was a slight hitch in my recovery when an abscess formed in my bowel and I suffered sepsis.

But within months I was back to work and have since had several scans which show that I am now clear of cancer.

The experience has changed my attitude to life. Things that I used to get wound up about don’t seem important now and I’m a lot more mellow. We’ve moved house and have been on holiday. I’m less inclined to let the grass grow under my feet.

I’d urge anyone else who has the symptoms of bowel cancer – blood in your stools, stomach pains and a change in bowel habits – to get checked out.

You never know – it might be haemorrhoids.

But it could also be bowel cancer and the sooner it’s caught, the better the chances of survival.

I consider myself very lucky.  I am privileged to be here to enjoy my children.”