John's cancer care journey to raise awareness for Bowel Cancer Awareness Month
Despite having no symptoms, John was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Following chemotherapy, surgery to remove one side of the colon, and four weeks in the High Dependency Unit (HDU) at Nuffield Health at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, John is now home with his wife and has returned to work.
“It was the summer of last year (2022) and I had just turned 58. I was sent the standard NHS bowel cancer test kit. I did it because I have always been keen to get these things checked out. The response back was quick”.
John was sent a Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) by the NHS, a test which looks for blood in a sample of stool. This can be tiny traces of blood which you may not be able to see but could be a sign of cancer.
John received an abnormal result back and was referred for a colonoscopy. “I was originally offered my colonoscopy in July but happened to have other arrangements made,” explains John. “We had a holiday booked in August and in hindsight, I'm glad I took the holiday without knowing what was about to be diagnosed.”
Following his holiday, John returned to hospital to have the colonoscopy.
“While I was in there having the colonoscopy, I could hear the doctors talking, I knew this is not always a great thing,” says John. “After the procedure I was taken off to a side room and my wife was asked to join the doctor, the bowel cancer specialist nurse and I. They said ‘we’re sorry we found something that's rather large and it's not a polyp. It will require more investigation. We need to send a sample away for testing and you will need a CT scan’.
My wife and I pressed the doctor to tell us if he thought it was cancer. He told us that in his experience this was likely to be a cancerous tumour,” explains John.
The results of John’s scan and the analysis of his sample confirmed the diagnosis of bowel cancer.
John was referred to the care consultant colorectal surgeon, Mr Pasquale Giordano. “I saw Pasquale who reconfirmed my diagnosis of colon cancer,” says John. “He explained that I would need chemotherapy and then an operation. Depending on the outcome of this, he said I may then have further chemo.
Speaking to Mr Giordano gave me a sense of relief. I'm so fortunate to have private medical insurance cover and I used this for my treatment.”
John began his four courses of chemotherapy in September 2022. In the New Year of 2023, John had another scan which confirmed that the cancer had begun to disperse.
Going into surgery
“I still needed the operation following my chemotherapy,” explains John. “Mr Giordano wanted to go in and make sure the bowel was clear, to see whether there were any further signs of cancer and remove any polyps that he needed to.”
This procedure was carried out in January and initially all went well. John was discharged from hospital in early February 2023 but unfortunately it wasn't the end of his recovery.
“I wasn't feeling too good. My stomach started to swell. Further into the week, I was asked to go out for exercise, small walks. I wasn't comfortable doing that. I said to my wife, there's something not quite right.”
John spoke to his specialist nurse at Nuffield Health at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, who advised him to return to the hospital for further tests.
“The tests showed I had an infection,” explains John. He was admitted to the Higher Dependency Unit at Nuffield Health at St Bartholomew’s Hospital for close monitoring. John was put on bowel rest during this time and was fed intravenously. He was given Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN), a mixture of all the essentials his body needed but without putting any stress on his stomach or bowel.
Eloise Garbutt, Dietitian at Nuffield Health at St Bartholomew’s says: “I saw John regularly to calculate his nutritional requirements and meet his needs via intravenous nutrition. Food was then reintroduced gradually, and I supported John with food choices that were nourishing in terms of energy and protein while also being easy to digest.”
John also received support from the physiotherapy team at Nuffield Health at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. This helped him to build back strength.
Ciara Patel, Senior Physiotherapist at Nuffield Health at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, says: “Our physiotherapy team supported John throughout his hospital journey from post-surgery through to his discharge from hospital.
He made an excellent recovery, with daily physiotherapy sessions in the gym which involved working on building strength and endurance after a period of in-activity.
Our physiotherapists provided him with a detailed rehabilitation programme during his stay and post discharge to get back to his personal goals.”
“The whole episode was a bit unpleasant, but it did the trick,” says John, who has now begun his phased return to work and is enjoying spending time with his wife and family.
We wish all the best of luck to John with the rest of his recovery.
April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. If you have any concerns or questions about possible symptoms, please contact us via our online book tool.
Last updated Thursday 25 May 2023
First published on Monday 24 April 2023