When Sharon Burton suddenly developed chronic stomach pains, she was told it was gastric flu.

Two months later, she was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Now in recovery, she tells her story.

“I’d had two lots of weight-loss surgery in two years, dropped from a size 26 to a size 16 and everything was hunky dory.

“But in May 2015, I started to develop chronic stomach aches. I’d be bent double and screaming in pain.

“It was as if I was having contractions – like having a baby. Absolutely unbearable.

“I thought there must be something wrong and went to my GP. I was given medication for gastric flu.

“Unfortunately the pains kept coming. And a few weeks later, they reached another level. I thought I was dying.

“I rang 111 and went to the out-of-hours surgery. The doctor told me I’d been drinking too much alcohol and gave me painkillers. I went home and lay awake, crying with pain.

“I rang 111 again and was told to go back to my GP. This time, at last, someone listened. She called an ambulance and blue-lighted me to hospital straight away.

I remember the relief of getting morphine in the ambulance. I’d had no sleep for days and was totally exhausted.

“When we reached A&E, they said it was probably gallstones, which is apparently common in weight-loss patients.

“I was admitted to hospital and given antibiotics and painkillers. But over five days, nothing seemed to change. Other patients with gallstones on the same ward were getting better and going home. I was still writhing in agony.

A CT scan changed everything.

“The doctors concluded I was in too much pain and sent me for a CT scan. When I came back, it was action stations – an emergency bowel surgeon came to see me and said he had bad news.

“I had an intussusception of the bowel – basically, that’s when one part of the intestine telescopes into another. In my case, my stomach was stuck to my bowel. They’d have to open me up and remove a section of the bowel. I’d probably end up with a colostomy bag and I might die.

“It was a shock. I knew the pain was unbearable but it hadn’t sunk in that I had a life-threatening condition.

“I was whisked to the operating theatre for a six-hour operation, was on life-support for 12 hours and intensive care for three days.

It was a real trauma. My husband Jon went through hell. So did my three children. We honestly thought I wasn’t going to survive.

“Jon came to see me every day and was my rock from start to finish.

Sharon with her husband Jon, who helped her through her throughout

“The doctors managed to save my bowel so I didn’t need a stoma. I had an extended right hemi-colectomy and bowel resection (quite major bowel surgery!) I now have a scar from my breastbone to my groin.

“When the tests came back, they found the intussusception was caused by a rare cancerous tumour in my appendix (classified as bowel cancer). I didn’t need chemotherapy. I just need monitoring every six months and hopefully that’s an end to it.

Sharon wants others to be aware of symptoms and not to feel scared about ask the important questions.

“I’m glad to be alive and grateful to the doctors who saved me. But it’s frustrating that it took so long to be diagnosed.

“I’d like other people to know that they should trust their own instincts. I feared my life was in danger but I was given antibiotics when what I needed was life-saving surgery.

“I’d like people to know that this kind of thing can happen. I was healthier and fitter than I had been for years and was struck by something like this. I’m told it’s very rare and there’s no known cause.

If my appendix had ruptured, the ramifications would have been deadly.

“I trusted the medics when they said it was gastric flu. I wanted to believe them. The fact is that my body was telling me the real truth. I should have listened and gone straight to hospital.”