Sarah Laws shares her cancer story and how the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity helped her through her treatment.
It took doctors 18 months to eventually diagnose me with bowel cancer; not the words I wanted to hear of course but I was relieved my symptoms now had a label.
My name is Sarah, I am 56 and I live in Heybridge near Maldon with my partner Andy. I had been having IBS like symptoms and a frequent upset stomach since early 2018. Once my diagnosis had been determined I was fast tracked for tests at hospital; CT scan, colonoscopy, MRI scan and stool tests.
My tumour was 3 ½ inches wide, therefore inoperable. I had to undergo six weeks of intense radiotherapy and chemotherapy but fortunately I had very few side effects. I put this down to a drink I affectionately nicknamed the Kermit due to its colour! Wheat grass, tropical fruit juice and a splash of water; it seemed to do the trick and saved me from the nausea which sometimes treatment can bring, among other side effects.
Fortunately my tumour decided to do as it was told and obediently shrank ready for my operation. On 10th March 2020, I had keyhole surgery with my surgeon using an AI (artificial intelligence) robot to perform the operation. This was ground breaking new technology which I was pleased to be asked to be part of. Just over a foot of my bowel was removed along with half of my rectum. I was fitted with a colostomy bag for my six months recovery who I nicknamed Moaning Myrtle from Harry Potter because of all the funny noises she would make!
And then lockdown swept the country and health visits were banned under the restrictions. I went into survival mode determined to heal as quickly as possible and get back to normal life – whatever that was going to be. I had to restrict my diet to less gas producing foods; I lived on soup with mashed potato, vegetarian sausages, vegan ice cream and Netflix!
I also had to restrict my exercise and activity levels to help with the healing process so wanted to keep busy in another way. I enrolled to become an NHS call and chat volunteer, helping to support those isolating or alone during lockdown with a friendly ear and as I love to chat, I was a natural! It also helped to take my mind off my own struggles and made me feel grateful for all I have.
Once lockdown restrictions had begun to lift, the nurses at Broomfield hospital put me in touch with Helen Rollason Cancer Charity. I met the wonderful Nicola at their Mid Essex Support Centre in Hatfield Peverel. I enjoyed the massage treatments and my partner Andy had reflexology; I talk about my hopes, my worries, my feelings and after the session I come out of the little room feeling like I’m walking on air; it gives me a real boost.
To give back to this incredible charity I will be helping organise and attending their new Ladies Group which takes place on the third Friday of every month at their Mid Essex Support Centre. Plus also putting my baking skills to good use!
I have recently had another CT scan and am just waiting on the results but I am not a negative person and refuse to be bought down by any news I am given. In fact if I could go back, I wouldn’t even change having cancer as it has made me the person I am today.
Live life to the full; that is my motto. I was lucky enough to be given the chance to purchase a rare 1/1000 edition of a Triumph Street Twin Goldline SE by my friend Malcolm Heeley, Global Head of Aftersales at Triumph. My pride and joy, it is a pleasure to be out on the roads again and rekindling my motorbike passion.
I’ve recently started singing in a church choir and as mentioned, my love of baking is bringing me great joy. There are three B’s which currently encapsulate my life; bowel cancer, baking and bike riding, and none of which I want to result in a soggy bottom!
A huge thanks to Helen Rollason Cancer Charity for helping me along my cancer journey; I would recommend anyone to get in touch with them as their support is invaluable. Their benefits are endless!
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