Health & hap­pi­ness

Michelle’s bum deal

Real People - - NEWS - Michelle Forde, 34, Earls­field, south Lon­don

Lug­ging bags of clothes up the stairs, I plonked them in the door­way of my new flat.

‘Nearly there!’ I smiled to my sis­ter, Kelly, 25.

‘Let’s put the ket­tle on and have a breather be­fore we do any more,’ Kelly sug­gested. ‘You look shat­tered!’

‘Don’t be daft, I’m fine,’ I in­sisted. It was July 2016, and I was mov­ing from my home in Belfast to Lon­don.

I’d just landed my dream job as a TV pro­ducer, and me and Kelly were mov­ing in to­gether.

But I didn’t want to ad­mit to her – or my­self – that I was knack­ered, and had been feel­ing run-down for months. I also no­ticed that I had blood in my stools when I went to the toi­let...

Soon, though, I was so busy with my new job, I’d put those niggles to the back of my mind.

A few weeks later, to perk my­self up af­ter a long day at work, I booked a hair ap­point­ment.

‘Are you preg­nant?’ my hair­dresser asked, out of the blue. ‘Er, no,’ I replied, be­mused. ‘It’s just your hair’s thin­ning at the front a bit – peo­ple some­times get that when they’re preg­nant,’ she ex­plained.

I shrugged it off, reck­on­ing it was down to the stress of mov­ing and start­ing a new job.

A cou­ple of months later, I was at work when I de­cided to tidy up a pile of clut­ter on my desk.

Ri­fling through a stack of pa­per, I picked up a health in­sur­ance form. It was one of the perks of the job. ‘I sup­pose I should send it off,’ I thought, even though I rarely got sick, and had never stayed in hos­pi­tal.

A few days later, a wel­come pack ar­rived. Scan­ning it as I ate break­fast, I was sud­denly star­tled by a list of symp­toms.

Bleed­ing, lack of en­ergy, odd bowel move­ments...

If you have any of these symp­toms, you should call our helpline,

the leaflet read.

I’d been need­ing to go to the toi­let al­most hourly re­cently, but ev­ery time I thought about mak­ing a doc­tor’s ap­point­ment, I’d put it off.

Call­ing BUPA, I was ad­vised to make an ap­point­ment with a con­sul­tant. I went to the ap­point­ment at Lon­don Bridge Hos­pi­tal in Septem­ber 2016, ex­pect­ing to be told I had ir­ri­ta­ble bowel syn­drome.

But af­ter ex­am­in­ing me, the con­sul­tant said I needed a colonoscopy – a test that uses a tele­scopic cam­era to look at the lin­ing of my large bowel.

‘It could be can­cer,’ he added, leav­ing me stunned.

A week later, the test re­sults con­firmed the worst.

‘You have stage three rec­tal can­cer – a 6cm tu­mour and it has spread to three of your lymph nodes,’ a sur­geon ex­plained.

‘We’ve caught it just in time, but you might need surgery, in which case you’ll need to wear a colostomy bag for the rest of your life.’

I broke down in Kelly’s arms. ‘Why me?’ I kept think­ing. But no one could tell me. Keen to avoid surgery,

I started gru­elling ses­sions of ra­dio­ther­apy in Oc­to­ber fol­lowed by chemo­ther­apy.

Not only did I lose weight and feel aw­ful, I had two months off work and had to deal with the em­bar­rass­ment of telling peo­ple I had rec­tal can­cer.

In April this year, a scan showed the tu­mour had shrunk to a quar­ter of its size.

I went back to work and changed my diet, cut­ting down on red meat and eat­ing lots of fruit and veg.

Sadly, a few months ago, a check-up re­vealed that the can­cer had started to grow back.

Now, I’m try­ing a new kind of treat­ment called Papil­lon con­tact ra­dio­ther­apy. It in­volves in­sert­ing a tube ap­pli­ca­tor up your bot­tom, through which the can­cer cells are de­stroyed with X-rays. It’s pain­ful, but I have to hope.

I’ve been dealt a bum deal, but I’m de­ter­mined to keep fight­ing.

Desk di­ag­no­sis A clear-out helped Michelle get to the bot­tom of her symp­toms...

The treat­ment is pain­ful but it gives me hope My job saved my life!

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