Janet - Gastro-Intestinal Cancer Support Group

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My Story

These pages list some members of the GICS group who have been kind enough to share their experiences on our website as a help to others who may be interested. All are happy to talk to new members about their experiences with GI Cancers. All members are contactable through the GICS group. If you wish to talk to someone who has gone (or is going) through a similar experience to your own, please email or telephone using the contact details for the group at the bottom of the HOME page.


Member Name - Janet

Rectal Cancer Diagnosed In 2007

I was diagnosed with rectal cancer in early 2007 and had surgery in May of that year; I now have a permanent colostomy. I have had tremendous support throughout my experience of cancer from not only friends and family but also from NHS staff.  I see GICS as an opportunity to give something back and I enjoy being part of a mutually supportive network.

In 2001 I visited my GP as I was concerned about a slight rectal bleed.  He referred me to the local hospital (we weren’t living in Essex at the time) for a sigmoidoscopy and barium enema.  These investigations showed that I had diverticulosis* but nothing else untoward apart from haemorrhoids, which possibly accounted for the bleeding. The hospital suggested that I keep a careful watch on my diet to prevent diverticulitis** and apart from that, no further action was deemed necessary.

It wasn’t until 2005 that I had any further symptoms.  In the beginning, these symptoms were severe stomach pains and I was told by a different GP that I probably had IBS. Medication was prescribed but the pains just wouldn’t go away so I returned to the surgery and was told that I couldn’t keep taking the medication indefinitely; I was given the impression that I just had to put up with the situation.  I later started to feel the need to empty my bowels every time I ate or drank, which was unpleasant and inconvenient, so back I went to my doctor.  I also had a feeling that my bowels weren’t emptying properly but didn’t query this as I was increasingly being made to feel that I had a minor problem which really didn’t warrant further investigation***

Then one day in February 2007 I had a rectal bleed which was too big to ignore and life changed very rapidly.  I saw a different member of the GP practice who examined me, said he could feel a lump inside my rectum and referred me to hospital under the fast track 2 week referral system. Within a short time I was being examined by a consultant, who said that I had what appeared to be a large polyp which had become a tumour.

An appointment was made for me to go into hospital for surgery to remove it and we all hoped that this would be all that was required.  However, after the polyp was removed tests were done to see if there was any spread and it was found that there were cancer cells in the wall of my rectum.  This meant that I needed further surgery to remove my rectum, sigmoid colon and the muscles and lymph glands around it – a procedure known as an abdominoperineal resection. This was done in May 2007 and I now have a permanent colostomy.

My operation was done by laparoscopy (keyhole surgery), which means I have only two tiny scars on my lower abdomen and a larger scar where my anus used to be.  I was treated under the Enhanced Recovery Programme and was home again only a week after I was admitted to hospital, even though I had developed some problems which needed two further operations. I return to hospital for checks every year now and I can’t thank the staff enough for making a difficult time as comfortable as possible despite being under great pressure from a large caseload.

The advice which the healthcare professionals give about not overdoing things after surgery is really something to be taken seriously: I felt well enough to resume salsa dancing only 8 weeks after my operation, but this was not very sensible as I now have a small peristomal hernia.

* Many people have small pouches in the lining of the colon, or large intestine, that bulge outward through weak spots. Each pouch is called a diverticulum. Multiple pouches are called diverticula. The condition of having diverticula is called diverticulosis.

** When the pouches become inflamed, the condition is called diverticulitis.

*** I now know that this is very characteristic of cancer of the rectum.  Does anyone wonder why I now believe so much in the need to raise awareness of the symptoms of bowel cancer?

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