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Bowel cancer

Anne Messenger, from London, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2005. After keyhole surgery, she is now in the clear and focused on helping others.

Anne Messenger, from London, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2005. After keyhole surgery, she is now in the clear and focused on helping others.

"For years I'd suffered from indigestion and thought I had irritable bowel syndrome, but when I noticed I had passed a little bit of blood, I went to the doctor.

"I was referred to St George's Hospital for tests and, following a stool sample, I was told I had a peptic ulcer. However, when I had a routine colonoscopy, doctors discovered that it was bowel cancer.

"It turned out that the initial bleeding had nothing to do with the cancer, so I'm fortunate that whatever caused it put me in a position where the doctors could pick up the cancer. 

"Not long after my diagnosis, I was given a date for an operation to remove the cancer. I had a full body scan, and the consultant told me that everything looked straightforward. They would perform keyhole surgery and I wouldn't need a colostomy.

"Leading up to the surgery, I had another colonoscopy, in which purple dye was used to pinpoint where doctors needed to operate. I never thought I'd have any problems, as I was naturally upbeat.

"The operation went well and they removed an 8cm (3 inch) growth. Doctors told me there was a 20% chance of recurrence, which would be halved if I had a course of chemotherapy.

"I began chemotherapy two weeks after my operation, but I had a bad reaction to it and had to stop. 

"For the two years after my operation, I had a check-up every three months. I now have one every six months.

"I had my last cigarette on the morning of my operation and I have become more aware of what I eat. My diet includes lots more fruit and veg.

"My advice is to try to take a bit of control and understand what is happening to you. Pay attention and always make a note of things to ask the consultant.

"You don't want to fuss, but you also don't want the consultant to say, 'You should have come to see me about this two months ago'.

"People can find doctors intimidating, but they're nice to everyone, so if something is worrying you, just ask.

"I used to call up or write to my doctor if I had any worries, and I'd take my husband with me if I was going to an appointment where I needed to take in information or make decisions about my treatment.

"Also, try to carry on as if you're going to be fine. I did, and because of that, my family coped well.

"I am now on the cancer committee at St George's. I think it's best to face cancer head on, and people who survive have a better view of life than most."

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