Until recently, as a forty year old who still feels like a 25 year old, cancer seemed like a far off grey cloud – something that I knew, statistically, may affect me or my husband, but not something we’d need to think about for ages – not until we’re “old”. My husband Ben is super sporty, horizontally laid back, health conscious on a slightly ridiculous scale (he makes his own granola!) and hadn’t had a day off work with illness in 12 years. In October 2017 he noticed blood in his poo. A number of trips to the doctor and blood tests followed. After each test and each visit we were told that there was no problem, it was probably just piles. He developed stomach pains and was treated for a bladder infection which never seemed to clear. He started sweating at night and the bleeding still didn’t stop and he was finally sent for a colonoscopy in April 2018. I don’t think I will ever forget the look on his face when he came into the waiting room after the colonoscopy. Sedated and in shock: “they found a growth – they think it may be cancer”. Stage 3 bowel cancer as it turned out, which meant that the cancer – by now a 5cm tumour - had grown through his bowel wall and spread to his lymph nodes. And there starts the real start of our 2017 – which I think we may now have to term our anus horribillis (doesn’t every account of bowel cancer need to include a bum joke?).
After a major op to remove part of his bowel and seven rounds of chemo Ben is currently on the mend. However what this year has brought to us is an understanding that cancer can affect anyone, at any age. Over 41,200 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK. 2,500 new cases are diagnosed each year in people under 50 – only 6% of the total but as we learnt all too late, in younger people the symptoms tend to have been overlooked for some time and all too often not caught as early as they could have been. It’s also taught us something else we knew but had never really faced up to: that life is short, that you really never know what is round the corner (a cliché but all too true) and that every day, every opportunity is precious. We, like many, have lived for tomorrow, saved for a rainy day, put the bottle of champagne to the back of the cupboard for a “special occasion”, kept the posh dress for best, had dreams that we’ll make reality “one day”. One day we’ll start a business. One day we’ll run a marathon. One day we’ll take the kids skiing or on safari.
More than nine out of ten people diagnosed with stage 1 bowel cancer survive for five years or more after diagnosis. However this drops significantly as the disease develops. There is only a small chance that bowel cancer will come back after five years. Almost 16,000 people die from bowel cancer in the UK every year. It is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK, behind lung cancer. But the number of people dying of bowel cancer has been falling since the 1970s. This may be due to earlier diagnosis and better treatment.
Love Sweat + Tees is one of a list of things that Ben and I are no longer saving up for a rainy day. And through this business we also wanted to recognise and contribute to, albeit in a small way, the work that many cancer charities do to improve the chances of survival and the lives of people with cancer. The work of these charities has become so much more relevant and important to us and our family this year.
About Bowel Cancer UK
They are the UK’s leading bowel cancer research charity. They support and enable research, educate patients, the public and professionals about bowel cancer, and campaign for early diagnosis and best treatment and care for all those affected.
Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK. However it shouldn’t be because it is preventable, treatable and curable.
Bowel Cancer UK are determined to save lives from bowel cancer but they can’t do this without you. Donate to Bowel Cancer UK this Christmas and give hope to those that are going through treatment, remember loved ones and come together to stop bowel cancer in our lifetime.
5% of all Love Sweat + Tees profit during the month of December 2017 will go straight to Bowel Cancer UK. You can also donate without making a purchase using the link below.