The Bourne Diagnosis – Nicola B & the Big C

I knew that I had cancer.  I had a strong inner feeling and I knew.  I was experiencing textbook symptoms and had a basic knowledge based on a strong family history – my mother, Grandmother and Great-Grandfather all died from Bowel Cancer at ‘young’ ages.  Even so, getting diagnosed was not as easy as it should have been.

I had been getting rectal bleeding on and off, probably since 2006.  Over the years I had visited various GPs but they always said the same, that I was too young to have  Bowel Cancer, it was probably a small internal cut and if the bleeding went,  there was nothing to worry about.  The bleeding would stop so as far as the GPs were concerned, that was that.  I now know that the bleeding was probably polyps in the colon, which can bleed intermittently and it is these polyps that grow into cancerous tumours.  In hindsight this was the beginning and could have probably been dealt with in the early stages if my initial concerns and symptoms had been taken seriously.

My mum and I at my birthday, nine months before she passed away from Bowel Cancer in 2008
My mum and I at my birthday, nine months before she passed away from Bowel Cancer in 2008

During my second pregnancy in 2011 the bleeding became intolerable, even so my GP still refused to send me for tests. At my post-natal 6 week check with the GP, after ridicule for suggesting something could be seriously wrong, I pushed and pushed until finally she agreed to refer me.

The level of incompetence shown to me by GPs was staggering, I was laughed at by one doctor for even suggesting I may have cancer at my age and told by another that it was a waste of NHS money to send me for tests.  These are just a couple from a long list of examples.  People often focus on the incompetence of the GPs but before hating too much, remember this;

  • Firstly; there is no point in dwelling on that now, I’m sure they were doing their best (I do still say that through slightly gritted teeth).
  • Secondly; it is due to an outdated idea held by many GPs that Colon Cancer only affects people over 65, a misperception that must change.  Partly through raising awareness, I’m hoping speaking out will help.
  • Thirdly; for every incompetent GP I have come across I have met 100 NHS staff who are incredible and worthy of more praise than I could ever give them.
  • Lastly; I love the NHS.  When I was ill and reading blogs of the financial stress Cancer patients in the USA have, I would feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I live in the UK and had none of those worries thanks to the NHS.  I was going to be treated and did not need to worry about paying for it.  Amazing!

I was finally referred for a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy which is a camera in the rectum and as pleasant as it sounds!  Having said that, I remember thinking that it would be the worse thing in the world and now I know that there are much worse things, everything in perspective people!  Going into the hospital was awful.  I had a designated nurse to look after me who said at at the end, she would give me my results.  They gave me a mask so that I could take Gas & Air as I needed it and in we went.

I don’t really remember much after that for a while.  Apparently I took in so much Gas and Air whilst having the procedure I had to be put in a recovery for a while (what can I say, that stuff’s good).  Bearing in mind that I really was expecting cancer, I felt I had my theory confirmed when I asked the nurse what the verdict was and she said that the consultant was going to speak with me himself.  When the consultant said he wanted to speak with me in a private room and thought my husband should be present, I thought, this has to be the most obvious way to let someone know they have cancer, without telling them.  So as you can imagine, I was far from a shocked when the consultant  told me he had found a tumour and was sending it for further testing.  I asked if in his expert opinion it was cancer and he said yes. The consultant kept saying, I’m sure this comes as a massive surprise to you, I was thinking, “no…. not really”.

You never know how you are going to react in these situation but for me, all I kept thinking was, ok, at least we know where we are now and can start getting it treated, although at this point I had no idea just how ill I was (we will talk about that later).

My experience trying to get diagnosed made me realise how important it is to take responsibility for your own health. You know your body, you know if something is wrong.  Trust your instincts.  I know how scary it is to say to a doctor, I think your wrong or I wont accept that – I found it crippling getting the words out but thank God I did.  My surgeon later told me my cancer was so far spread that if I had waited even 6 months, they wouldn’t have been able to do anything. That’s a pretty scary thought!

As I mentioned, my misdiagnosis came from an outdated idea that Bowel Cancer affects the over 65.


BowelCancerUKIt can happen to anyone at any age so if you have any symptoms or concerns, do not take a chance.  Go, see, speak and don’t take no for an answer.  Trust me.  The wonderful Bowel Cancer UK are running a fantastic campaign ‘Right Test Right Time’ which is all about this exact topic.  Have a look and lets all take action together!!

19 thoughts on “The Bourne Diagnosis – Nicola B & the Big C

  1. Seen and heard it all before. I even told our local GP that my father in law had cancer after reading a magazine article which described his symptoms. The GP would not have looked any further if I had not persisted and taken in the article. It shows how important the written word is and how sharing can make a difference. That said once diagnosed and the wheels start to turn the NHS is incredible. Keep blogging.


  2. Your family has been through so much.
    I really empathise with this post, trying to get diagnosed a second time was an awful process and like you any longer and it would have been a different story. I was never laughed at or ridiculed though, what an appalling way to treat you. Thank goodness you are tough and kept on pushing them.
    Thanks for sharing this xx


    1. Thank you Alice. Obviously all’s well that end’s well, but I think it’s important people know its not always as easy as you would think. Sorry you had a tough time getting diagnosed, and I didn’t realise you had it twice, how awful for you. I think you are a very inspirational woman x


  3. Thank you for writing about this. My daughter died aged 34 yrs of bowel cancer, just back in February this year. No one would listen to her. The GPs were useless. She would probably still be with us today if they had taken some action. If I could turn the clock back I would go and camp out in the surgery until they listened. This time last year she was only vaguely ill.Please keep telling everyone.


    1. Hi Gillian,
      Thank you so much for your comment. I am so sorry to hear about your daughter. It really is confirmation of why I tell my story and keep trying to spread the word.
      My thoughts and heart are with you during this unimaginably difficult time


  4. Hi Nicola, really pleased that you are still doing well. Sorry to hear about the disappointing delay in diagnosis but glad to hear that you have positives to say about the NHS…I am an AML survivor (aggressive Leukaemia – diag 2015) and too think there are so many wonderful people in the NHS…my consultant for one…without the NHS I wouldn’t be here. It’s just sad to know that with the pressure its under and other factors that negative things happen too when it can be truly brilliant. I had fantastic treatment all the way through but some areas have been lacking too. All the best – Anna

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree completely Anna. The fact that we receive such wonderful treatment and don’t have to pay is amazing. Any system will have places that need working on but I feel very lucky. So pleased to hear that you are going well too. Nicola


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