Juliette Cutting was shocked to be told, at the age of 45, that she had bowel cancer.

She thought that only happened to older people with a history of bowel disease.

“I had a busy life – I was working part-time at an estate agent. We have three children aged 12, 15 and 17. My elderly mum was in and out of hospital and needed help. A lot of the summer of 2018 was taken up with just getting on with life.

“I had a bit of stomach pain and some bleeding but I put it down to piles or IBS – nothing serious.

“The symptoms came and went: I’d have a bad patch for a few days then I’d feel better. So I ignored it.

“Then we took the family to Devon in August and my symptoms were bad enough to spoil the holiday. I tried not to make a fuss but I was very aware that things weren’t normal. I wasn’t able to eat as much as I used to and was losing weight.

“When we got home I went to the nurse practitioner as an emergency case and spent the next two days going in and out of A&E at Kingston Hospital.

“I was given a scan and they found gallstones – which turned out to be a red herring.

“I began to feel better and life took over: the children had exams, my husband was away for work. My mum still wasn’t 100 per cent.

“I finally got to see my GP in November.

She gave me a check list of symptoms for bowel cancer – including what I now know to be the obvious signs like bleeding and stomach pains, but also night sweats, fatigue and constipation.

It hadn’t occurred to me they might be linked.

“I ticked too many of the boxes for my GP not to be worried. When she mentioned the possibility of bowel cancer, my world turned upside down.

“My husband was working away when I went for a colonoscopy. The tumour in my bowel was very apparent on the screen in front of me - there was no hiding it. I was terrified.

“It was such a shock. I genuinely thought bowel cancer only happened to people over 60 with a history of bowel disease, who were obese – who weren’t me.

“I burst into tears. I heard someone say ‘it’s okay – we’ve seen worse’, but that didn’t help. The consultant then gave me a piece of paper saying I had a malignant tumour. Seeing it in black and white was an extra jolt.

“I got home and blurted everything out. My children were beside themselves. It was very desperate.

“I was referred for a CT scan within a week to see if it had spread. The two-week wait for the results seemed endless. My whole life seemed to have been cut short: I wouldn’t see my daughter go to university, or see my children on their wedding day. But I had to hold it together.

“I couldn’t tell the kids it was all going to be okay because I didn’t know, and I couldn’t lie to them - they were old enough to know what was going on. There was this shadow hanging over all of us – the shadow of not knowing.

“My husband was fantastic. He has a very optimistic outlook on life and if ever I got upset, he’d look up the statistics and come up with something hopeful.

“It turned out that the tumour was operable. I spent five days in hospital in December 2018 and had an extended right helicolectomy. The cancer hadn’t spread and I didn’t need a stoma. I chose not to have six months of adjuvant chemotherapy – I wanted to get on with my life.

“I’m told there is an 80 per cent chance that the cancer won’t re-occur and I feel reassured that I’m on the consultant’s radar.

“I went back to work in February and am almost back to normal. I’ve cut down on meat to reduce the risks associated with bowel cancer.

“The whole experience has put my life into perspective, that’s for sure. I now try not to let little things bother me – when you’ve been through a life-or-death experience, you realise that some things really don’t matter.

“I’m very lucky. The NHS was fantastic. So was my GP and I shall never forget the unending love and support offered by family and friends. If others read my story and become more aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer, I’ll feel I’ll have given a little bit back.”

Juliette shared her inspirational story in support of our Bowel Cancer Awareness Month campaign, I've Got Guts. 

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