Bowel cancer: Dr Amir explains symptoms to look out for
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Lauren Fresa, 35, from Flint, North Wales, who describes her story as “a case of once bitten, twice shy”, knows far too well how quickly can everything change in just 24 hours. Rushed to hospital in February 2021 while 18 weeks pregnant, she had to undergo a life-saving surgery only to be told she had lost her baby and that she has bowel cancer. Fighting her way through this ordeal, the mum is now due to have her third round of chemotherapy because the cancer has returned.
Lauren, who is already a mum to six-year-old Liam, fell pregnant with her second child in October 2020 but rather than just noticing the changes that come with pregnancy, the mum spotted that something was off with her bowel movements.
She said: “I knew something was wrong, and I spent six months going back and forth to my GP, only to be sent home with laxatives and enema kits and told it was just constipation.
“Laxatives are supposed to take effect within two weeks – to be on them for six months is ridiculous – it’s a hell of a long time.”
The NHS explains that constipation is rarely caused by “serious bowel conditions” but it could be a sign of bowel cancer.
READ MORE: ‘I had zero risk factors for bowel cancer’: Woman hit by the condition shares ‘first’ sign
Changes in your normal bowel habits – whether that’s looser poos, needing the loo more often, or constipation – can ring alarm bells, according to Cancer Research UK.
After months of trying to find out the cause of her problems, Lauren was eventually rushed to a hospital.
Medics discovered a blockage in her bowel and performed emergency surgery to fit a colostomy bag, which is used to collect stool.
Tragically, just the day after undergoing this life-saving operation, Lauren was told she had lost her baby.
She described this time as “sad” and “awful”, made even worse by lockdown restrictions that meant her husband couldn’t be with her when she received the news.
She was also diagnosed with bowel cancer, with further scans revealing that the daunting condition spread to her liver.
“It felt like a million things were happening at once. It was just horrible,” the mum recalled.
She underwent surgery to remove the cancerous tumour, two rounds of chemotherapy at two different hospitals, and a hysterectomy to remove her womb.
But just before last Christmas, Lauren and her husband, Kris, 36, who works for a homeless charity Shelter, were told the cancer had returned in her liver.
She is now preparing to begin her third round of chemotherapy this week.
READ MORE: Man diagnosed with cancer months after losing partner to disease
Primary school teacher Lauren said: “A lot has happened in a short space of time.
“It’s taken me a bit longer this time to get my head around the news that the cancer is back. I think it’s a case of once bitten, twice shy.
“It takes its toll – even though you know it’s a possibility that it will return, you still hope it will all be OK. I’m just trying to stay as positive as I can.
“I’m going straight back onto the same chemotherapy I had the second time round, and I seemed to respond quite well to that, so I’m hoping it will work again.”
Sadly, Lauren’s hysterectomy means she and Kris can no longer conceive any more children.
She said: “Once I had had radiotherapy in my pelvic area, that door was closed to me. But to have the hysterectomy was just horrible – for me and Kris, and for our whole family.
“We definitely did want more children.”
The mum is now due to have another round of chemotherapy that should last three months. Lauren added: “I think it will be a case of we’ll just wait and see what happens.
“I’m aware it might not be durable this time, but I’m trying to stay hopeful.”
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