Police officer has rectum REMOVED after doctors find foot-long tumour invading his bowel
The father-of-two had suffered with ulcerative colitis for 25 years so didn’t think much of it when his symptoms started to change.
Assuming his condition was just getting a bit better Greg, a police officer, didn’t think to mention to his doctor that he had stopped going to the toilet so much.
If it hadn’t been for a routine test his cancer wouldn’t have been discovered and his outcome could have been a very different story.
Now Greg, 54, is urging men to get involved in Bowel Cancer UK’s Decembeard campaign – to raise awareness of the disease and remind people to get tested.
It follows on from The Sun's successful No Time 2 Lose campaign, which called on the Government to lower the bowel cancer screening age to 50.
The Government announced in August it would lower the bowel screening age from 60 to 50 across England and Wales – but it’s still not known when the changes will come into place.
Ulcerative colitis often has very similar symptoms to bowel cancer, meaning Greg was no stranger to seeing blood in his poo.
“I’d had it for 25 years by then so it was how much blood rather than whether there was blood," he told The Sun.
“You also have a lot of pain, loose bowel movements – all the kinds of symptoms that also come with bowel cancer.
“I knew that I was high risk of bowel cancer because I had ulcerative colitis for such a long time.
"But in the 18 months leading up to it when I saw my consultant she would ask how things were and I’d say, ‘they’re great’, because I’d stopped going to the toilet so much.
“But I wasn’t going to the toilet so much because the tumour had blocked my bowel.”
As Greg, from Neath Port in Wales, was considered at a higher risk for bowel cancer he was having colonoscopies every three years to check everything was in working order – usually ulcerative colitis patients have scans every five years.
It was this routine test that saved Greg’s life.
“When they did the colonoscopy I saw it and it was huge,” he recalled.
“I knew it wasn’t right and I said, ‘is that what I think it is?’, and the doctor said, ‘Yes, it’s a tumour’.
SUCCESS FOR BOWEL CANCER CAMPAIGN – BUT NOW WE NEED ACTION
The Government announced in August it would lower the bowel screening age from 60 to 50 across England and Wales after The Sun’s No Time 2 Lose campaign.
Bowel cancer is the 2nd deadliest form of cancer, claiming 16,000 lives a year, but it CAN be cured if it's caught early enough.
Fewer than one in ten people survive bowel cancer if it's picked up at stage 4, but detected quickly, more than nine in ten patients will live five years or longer.
That's why The Sun launched the No Time 2 Lose campaign in April with Bowel Cancer UK, calling on the Government to offer a simple poo test to everyone, every two years, from their 50th birthday.
But it’s still not known when the changes will come into place.
Dr Lisa Wilde, director of research at Bowel Cancer UK, said: “We know that screening is the best way to detect bowel cancer at the earliest stage when it gives us the greatest chance of survival.
“We’re pleased that the governments in England and Wales have already committed to lowering the screening age to 50 and introducing a new and more accurate bowel cancer screening test.
“However to make this a reality it’s vital to ensure that the NHS has enough staff to support the delivery of these life-saving improvements to the screening programme.”
Dr Widle is also urging men to learn the signs of bowel cancer.
“Almost 42,000 people diagnosed with the disease every year,” she said.
“And yet 45 per cent of men are unable to spot any symptoms of the disease.
“That’s why we’re asking men to get sponsored to grow a beard for the charity throughout December to help raise awareness of the UK’s second biggest cancer killer.
“Your support will fund vital services and lifesaving research to help ensure a future where nobody dies of bowel cancer.”
“As a police officer I’m used to reading people’s body language and emotions to tell if they are lying or not, that day I wished I couldn’t read people’s body language so well.
“I s*** myself. As I left the hospital I felt like a dead man walking.
“I phoned my wife straight away. She was obviously upset and I picked her up on the way home from the hospital.
“That first night I lay in bed and planned how and when to tell my children that I had bowel cancer.
I s*** myself. As I left the hospital I felt like a dead man walking.
“My daughter's 21st birthday was three days later so I decided to till after then.
“That first night I didn't sleep a wink and planned my funeral in my head. I picked the venue, the songs, my bearers – and how I was going to ask them to be my bearers – and where the wake was going to be.
“I didn't go to work the next day but returned to work the day after that. I had to keep my mind occupied or I'd go mad.
"I worked right up until the day before my operation.”
In May 2014 Greg had the tumour removed – and doctors had to remove his entire colon, large intestine, rectum and anus to reduce the risk of his cancer returning.
But while he was waiting for his operation, while in hospital, Greg's bowel burst.
“When I went into hospital I started to feel unwell and they said it was the anxiety of having surgery,” he recalled.
“I didn’t feel anxious at all because I couldn’t wait to get this b***** thing out of me, it was going to kill me otherwise.
“I got worse and worse and then in the evening I got really unwell and was sent for a CT scan and it had burst my bowel – the day that I went into hospital.”
Greg was given the choice to remove all of the organs affected by his cancer or for doctors to create what is known as a J-pouch, where they remove the colon and rectum and build a new pouch.
He said it was a “no brainer” and opted to have all affected organs removed.
Having to tell my wife and three kids that I had bowel cancer is probably one of the hardest things I ever had to do
“The doctor explained there could be a high risk of it coming back because I have UC, but if I haven’t got a colon there’s no risk of it coming back,” he said.
“There was no hesitation from me, I just said take it all out, it was a no brainer as far as I was concerned.”
After his surgery Greg endured five gruelling rounds of chemotherapy over six months just in case cancerous cells had spread throughout his body when his bowel ruptured.
Now, his most recent scans and blood tests showed no markers of the disease.
For now, Greg hasn’t been given the all clear but he is hopeful he will soon.
Greg is taking part in Decembeard for the third time this year, a campaign run by Bowel Cancer UK to raise money for bowel cancer research and to encourage people to get tested.
“Having to tell my wife and three kids that I had bowel cancer is probably one of the hardest things I ever had to do,” he said.
You’ve got to go get tested, you don’t want to go through what I’ve been through and what my family has been through. Get out there, don’t be embarrassed and drop ‘em.
“I want to raise money to fund research, so that hopefully one day nobody will ever have to go through that feeling.
“Since being diagnosed, I have lost six friends, colleagues and neighbours to various forms of cancer, so I feel extremely lucky that I am still alive and that I was able to recently become a grandfather for the first time.
“You’ve got to go and do it [get tested], you don’t want to go through what I’ve been through and what my family has been through.
“Get out there, don’t be embarrassed and drop ‘em.”
You can donate to Greg's fundraising efforts here.
BEARD UP IN THE NAME OF BOWEL CANCER RESEARCH
'I'm proof early diagnosis is important'
MATT Tebbatt is proof that if you catch bowel cancer early it’s a curable disease.
The 47-year-old was diagnosed with bowel cancer seven weeks ago after noticing changes in his bowel movements.
Matt’s cancer hadn’t spread to any other organs, and doctors were able to remove the tumour in one operation, but the outcome could have been so much worse had he not sought help sooner.
Now he is urging men to get involved in Bowel Cancer UK’s Decembeard campaign – to raise awareness of the disease and remind people to get tested.
Matt, from Eckington in Worcestershire, was going to the toilet more frequently than normal and noticed blood in his poo.
His dad had been diagnosed with bowel cancer a few years before, so he immediately recognised the signs.
After a couple of visits to his GP Matt was referred for a colonoscopy, which detected a tumour.
“It started about five months ago, I had a few symptoms and kept thinking something wasn’t right,” he told The Sun Online.
“All along, right up until having that examination, everyone was saying ‘I’m sure this is all routine’ or ‘I’m sure it will be fine’.
“But during the scan I knew something wasn’t right because they were asking for biopsy kits and so on.
It was a massive relief knowing it hadn’t spread, and knowing it was one thing that can get dealt with.
“I was basically informed that there was something there. They used a double negative and said ‘it looks very non-benign’ so I just asked if that means it’s malignant and they said yes.
“That was obviously a bit of a shock and really upsetting.”
A biopsy of the tumour was taken and sent for testing.
Meanwhile, Matt was booked in for a CT scan two weeks later to determine if the cancer had spread – something that’s very common in bowel cancer if it’s not caught early.
Following his CT scan Matt, an architect for One Creative Environment, was referred for surgery to remove the tumour, which he underwent on November 7.
Despite the shock being told he had cancer, Matt said it was a relief to be told it was early stages.
During the scan I knew something wasn’t right because they were asking for biopsy kits and so on
“It was a massive relief knowing it hadn’t spread, and knowing it was one thing that can get dealt with,” he said.
“Even right at the start when they first looked at it they said ‘We can deal with that, whatever it is, that’s coming out’.
“I was really pleased because I know that from the bowel it can move to places like the lungs and liver, and that’s much worse.”
Matt’s surgery was successful and he was allowed home three days later, where he is now recovering.
As he was diagnosed so recently he doesn’t know what stage his cancer is, or if he needs chemotherapy.
Now, Matt is using his story to “normalise” talking about bowel cancer to encourage people to get tested for the disease.
FIND OUT MORE What are bowel cancer’s symptoms and signs, how do you get treatment for the condition and is there a test?
Matt is also taking part in Decembeard, a campaign run by Bowel Cancer UK to raise money for bowel cancer research and to encourage people to get tested.
He will be decorating his beard with different coloured dyes and Christmas baubles to raise money for the charity.
So far he has raised £1,600.
“Men are particularly bad at going to the doctors, we kind of just think ‘Oh it’ll be fine’, so I’m on a bit of a bandwagon now with telling people,” he said.
Don’t be embarrassed, doctors deal with these things day in day out, they’re trained to not be bothered so you shouldn’t be either.
“When I mentioned it to my friends on our WhatsApp group a lot of people said they’d had endoscopies or colonoscopies, so actually I think more people are taking it more seriously.
“But I know there are lots who don’t.
“Don’t be embarrassed, doctors deal with these things day in day out, they’re trained to not be bothered so you shouldn’t be either.
“It’s really, really important and I’m glad I got tested.”
You can donate to Matt's Decembeard fundraising efforts here.
'I dismissed my symptoms but I wish I hadn't – you shouldn't either'
NEVER ignore changes in your bowel movements – that’s the message Hugh Wright has for other men.
The 57-year-old was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer, which has spread to his lungs and liver, in April last year after years of suffering diarrhoea.
He was just 55 at the time.
“It came out of the blue for me and turned my life upside down,” he told The Sun Online.
“There isn’t a nice way to talk about bowel cancer – the reason I went for tests is because I had a lot of diarrhoea.
“If I’m honest that had been going on for two or three years and I should have gone to the doctor earlier.
“But I did the usual thing that people do, especially men, and assumed its irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and no big deal."
Hugh, from Leeds, went to see his GP who sent him for a number of tests, including a colonoscopy.
It was during his scans that doctors found the cancer.
In an instant Hugh’s world had changed – it wasn’t the IBS he thought it was – and he was sent for a CT and MRI.
“I’d rationalised the symptoms as IBS but there was some blood and pain so I’d half convinced myself it was bowel cancer – you know what it’s like when you get scared about things,” he added.
At 57 you don’t even think about dying, you think its 30 years away and suddenly you start thinking it’s only three years away
“It was a bombshell to hear I had bowel cancer and it’s spread to my lungs and my liver.
“I just remember thinking ‘Does this mean I am going to die in a couple of months? What does this mean?’.
“At 57 you don’t even think about dying, you think its 30 years away and suddenly you start thinking it’s only three years away.”
A week later Hugh found himself sitting in an oncologist’s office waiting to be told his future.
“He told me it is a severe disease and it’s not curable, but it is manageable,” he recalled.
Get tested. I had symptoms for two or three years before I did, if I’d had gone then we’d have almost certainly caught it at stage one
“He said to me, ‘You’re not going to die in the next couple of months, but you need to seriously think about your life’.
“If you look at the statistics my life expectancy is probably two or three years, maybe five with a bit of luck.
“But you try and kid yourself on with that… the statistics aren’t great for stage four.”
Hugh started 16 weeks of chemotherapy in May, to manage his disease.
Despite everything, he says he tries to look on the bright side every day.
“I’ve got two children who are both grown up and independent and able to look after themselves," he said.
“I’m reasonably financially secure and worked for a company that were massively supportive and had a good income protection scheme so I’ve been able to stop working and get away from that stress to focus on my health.
If you look at the statistics my life expectancy is probably two or three years, maybe five with a bit of luck
“I balance it with no obsessing over the fact that I’m probably not going to live much longer.
“Generally my health is OK, except for when I’m on chemo, I have some pain but it’s not totally debilitating.
“Chemo does make you feel grotty but it’s not terrible, it makes my diarrhoea worse and you feel sick and lethargic for a few days and then you recover from it.
“It’s kind of a price worth paying to slow the disease.”
For now, Hugh will continue with chemotherapy as and when he needs it.
He has regular scans to check how fast the disease is progressing, but doctors can’t tell him how long he’s got left.
Hugh is hoping his story will encourage other men to get themselves checked out – that’s why he’s supporting Decembeard.
“Go and do it [get tested]. I had symptoms for two or three years before I did, if I’d had gone then we’d have almost certainly caught it at stage one,” he said.
“If you catch bowel cancer at stage one it’s really curable.
“It’s probably nothing, but if it is something and you go early you have a much better chance.”
You can donate to Hugh's Decembeard fundraiser here.
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