ONE YEAR ago I was a bag of nerves as I arrived at hospital for treatment.
I should have been used to it, after being diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in December 2016.
But this time it was different. It felt like so much more was riding on it, it felt like a last chance.
I was about to become one of the first people in the country to start a new type of treatment, three new targeted drugs.
They’re not currently available on the NHS to treat bowel cancer. I was incredibly lucky to have been allowed the drugs on compassionate grounds – without them, I probably would have died.
So how did I get this chance?
It was thanks, in part to Cancer Research UK, who have been spearheading trials of these drugs in patients like me.
They are already used to treat melanoma, but thanks to a trial led by CRUK, I got a chance.
And an incredible 365 days or so later, I feel incredibly lucky to still be here.
I’ve had highs – scans revealing I have no evidence of cancer in my body not just once but twice.
And lows – a blip when my tumour markers started to creep up mid-Covid lockdown.
Without these drugs my kids Hugo and Eloise wouldn’t have a mum, and my husband, Seb would be a widower.
Not only will coronavirus cause a devastating timebomb when it comes to extra cancer deaths, it has decimated cancer charities.
What are the red flag signs of bowel cancer?
BOWEL cancer can be cured, if you catch it early enough.
Catch it at stage 1 and you have a 97 per cent chance of surviving five years or longer.
But catch it at stage 4 and that chance plummets to just 7 per cent.
Early diagnosis saves lives, so it's important to understand the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer – and act if you notice something unusual.
What are the signs of bowel cancer?
- Bleeding from your back passage or blood in your poo
- A persistent and unexplained change in your toilet habits – going more often, or any change to your stools
- A pain or lump in your tummy
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason.
To find out more visit Bowel Cancer UK for info.
And the sad truth is that will only lead to more deaths in the long run.
CRUK has estimated they will lose £160million this year alone – that’s a drop in income of 30 per cent.
Over the next three years that number is thought to be £300million.
The reality is around £150million will be slashed from their research budget – and that is dire news for cancer patients like me.
Years of research and money have gone into discoveries like my drugs.
Thanks to the scientists at places like the Francis Crick Institute, funded in part by CRUK, survival for cancer patients has doubled in my lifetime.
That gives me hope, something that is an incredibly powerful thing when you are living with cancer.
Now, we have to make sure future generations, my kids, your kids and our grandchildren, get to feel that hope too.
We cannot let all this progress be for nothing.
It’s not just research that is vital, these charities do so much more.
They are vital sources of support for patients, left isolated by their cancer diagnosis.
I was lucky enough to be surrounded by my family and friends, but no one really understands it like another cancer patient.
Charities like CRUK and Bowel Cancer UK have been there to help steer me – and countless others – through the darkest of days.
Coronavirus has left these charities on their knees, facing a very real threat to their futures.
When I started this new round of treatment, my doctors warned me most other patients have only tolerated them for eight months or so.
Yet I am still here, and I am living my life to the full – Covid permitting – in spite of my cancer.
I get to do that because charities like CRUK exist.
I dread to think what might happen if they cease to exist or can no longer fund the pioneering research that is keeping me alive, it really doesn’t bear thinking about.
They were dealt another massive blow last week when the London Marathon was cancelled – one of the biggest annual fundraisers for thousands of charities.
So one way we can all try to stop that happening is by donating what we can, however small.
Coronavirus may have put life on pause, but we need to get cancer services, and research back on track, and now.
To donate to help CRUK continue its life-saving work, visit CRUK.org/give.
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