Rebecca Holden was 33 when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer. But for six months her chronic stomach pains were thought to be  a result of her pregnancy, due to post-natal depression.

“I was 33 years old, just married, and pregnant with my first child. But as the pregnancy progressed I started to get very bad stomach pains.

"I’d never been pregnant before so I didn’t know what to expect. Was this just part of the deal?

"I went for various scans and was told everything was ‘normal’. So to start with, I just dealt with it.

"But the excruciating pains would still come and go and I would be rolling on the floor in agony.

"I went into labour two weeks late, had a really traumatic time and Max was born by emergency C-section in March 2011. I seemed to recover really quickly and went home within 24 hours.

"But four weeks later, the stomach pains came back with a vengeance and I knew something was seriously wrong. I ended up crawling on my hands and knees to A&E at Charing Cross Hospital.

"They did blood tests and said the pains were probably a result of the Caesarean. Doctors examined me and insisted I was fine.

"Unfortunately, I wasn’t. I went back to A&E three times in six weeks but no one seemed able to help and each time they sent me away. They told me my ultrasound scan was clear and that I was probably just constipated.

"Whilst it never occurred to me that I might have bowel cancer, I knew it wasn’t constipation.

I was furious when one medic suggested I was suffering from post-natal depression and pains were all a front to get away from my baby.

"I seemed to be hitting my head against a brick wall.

Finally Rebecca found someone who understood her symptoms

"Then a wonderful GP came to my rescue. She suggested I see a colorectal specialist. I went home, Googled ‘colorectal’, and booked an emergency appointment with a consultant.

"Through the consultant, I had another ultrasound scan and a colonoscopy. This time they found two tumours in my colon and I was given the life-changing news that they were highly likely to be cancerous.

"It was May 2011. My baby was six weeks old, and I’d been in pain for more than nine months now.

"It was hard to hear the words ‘bowel cancer’ but at the same time I thought ‘thank goodness they know what it is’. I wasn’t imagining it.

"Within days, I underwent an extended right hemi-colectomy which removed half of my colon and my appendix.

"The specialist said I was very lucky the cancer hadn’t spread and, had it been left a few weeks longer, the outcome could have been fatal.

He suspected the tumour had been growing for about three years and it was possibly the pregnancy that aggravated it and caused so much pain. So, in way, Max saved my life.

"After the operation, I went through six months of chemotherapy and reacted badly. My husband Piers became a very hands-on father and sadly I had little to do with Max for the first nine months of his life.

Rebecca dearly wanted to look after her son, but struggled with chemo

"I was very fortunate to have the most amazing employer and 18 months later I went back to work as a PA for a private equity firm in London.

Rebecca was given a new lease of life and come back stronger

"We were told the chemo may have affected our chances of having more children, but our second son Nico was born in 2013.

"In May 2016, I was given the five-year all-clear of cancer. I’ve also had a genetic test for bowel cancer and it was negative. So life is good and I’m feeling very fortunate.

"Looking back, I realise there were other signs: I’d often get stomach cramps, and blood when I went to the loo but I was a keen runner and put it down to piles or IBS.

"To anyone else who has the symptoms of bowel cancer – stomach cramps, change in bowel habits, and bleeding – I’d say listen to your body and insist that doctors listen too. And if you’re sent home without an answer, seek a second opinion – or a third.

Rebecca ran the 2017 London Marathon in aid of Bowel & Cancer Research finishing in 4 hours 20 minutes and raising a staggering £9,870.44! If you're interested in hearing about our events, please email [email protected]