Ann Allan: Reading This Could Save a Life and It May Be Yours.

Over the last nine months I was aware that things weren’t right and I knew I needed to see a doctor. However the virus was everywhere and I kept putting it off.

It was a difficult decision but I finally realised I needed to find out what was going on. It took a lot of phone calls but I persisted and eventually got through to the clinic. The doctor agreed that I needed to be seen and an appointment was made.

Blood tests were taken and I was asked to take an FOBT (fecal occult blood test), a very sophisticated test that can detect occult blood in the bowel.

A few days later I was walking along the seafront at Seapark when my doctor phoned. First the good news , the blood tests were all normal but the FOBT showed that there was a problem and further tests were necessary.

This included a second FBOT which also came back positive. This was very quickly followed up by a phone call from a consultant at the Ulster hospital who described what would happen next.

First a colonoscopy, followed by a CT scan and then an MRI. I have to say that I couldn’t have been treated better. Everyone I came across, and there were three hospitals involved : Downe hospital, Lagan Valley hospital and finally the Ulster hospital were understanding, efficient and caring. Despite all that was going on with the virus, normal day to day life saving procedures were going on.

I won’t go into details but the colonoscopy and the prep for it weren’t pleasant. I was able to watch on the screen as I didn’t take a sedative and so I realised something wasn’t right when I heard the doctors asking for a biopsy. This took place at Downe Hospital.

A discussion after with the doctor revealed that they had found a tumour / polyp 3mm ( 1 inch long) It was not possible to say whether or not it was cancer until a biopsy had been performed. The wheels were also set in motion for a CT scan followed by an MRI.

Next morning I received a call from Lagan Valley Hospital. Could I come along that afternoon for the CT scan? No waiting, straight in with reassuring staff talking me though the procedure. I had to wait over a week for results of the CT scan but it was clear and if it was cancer it hadn’t spread.

The MRI was next. This was the one I wasn’t looking forward to as I am extremely claustrophobic. However as it was scanning the pelvic area I was able to go into the tube feet first and apart from the noise it was fine.

How was I feeling during this time? I have to say I was quite calm and accepting. Red flags had been mentioned and I knew I was getting excellent attention and it was being investigated quickly.

I got on with life and took the attitude that what will be, will be, to quote and old song. My husband didn’t sleep much in those six weeks and the family were worried. I had good support from them and from friends who I had confided in.

On Monday this week I went to the Ulster Hospital to get results. Good news, the tumour is benign but is probably precancerous. So I will need an operation in January to remove it.

I am writing this to let anyone who is worried about their symptoms not to be embarrassed or afraid and to see your doctor as soon as possible. They have seen and heard it all before.

The symptoms of bowel cancer are below. This doesn’t mean that all cases will be cancerous but it could save your life if it’s caught early as in my case.

The symptoms of bowel cancer can be subtle and do not necessarily make you feel ill. However, it’s worth trying simple treatments for a short time to see if they get better.

More than 90% of people with bowel cancer have 1 of the following combinations of symptoms:

  • a persistent change in bowel habit – pooing more often, with looser, runnier poos and sometimes tummy (abdominal) pain
  • blood in the poo without other symptoms of piles (haemorrhoids) – this makes it unlikely the cause is haemorrhoids
  • abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought on by eating – sometimes resulting in a reduction in the amount of food eaten and weight loss

Constipation, where you pass harder stools less often, is rarely caused by serious bowel conditions.

Most people with these symptoms do not have bowel cancer.

Thank you for reading this. I hope you will share and maybe by doing so you will help save a life.

I wish you a Happy and Healthy Christmas.