‘Time to end stigma of toi­let talk, it could help to save lives’

IRFON’S WIDOW ON RAIS­ING BOWEL CAN­CER AWARE­NESS

Bangor Mail - - News - Amelia Shaw

THE wife of Irfon Wil­liams, who in­spired thou­sands of peo­ple with his de­fi­ant bat­tle against can­cer, is en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers to be aware of the signs of the dis­ease for Bowel Can­cer Aware­ness Month.

Becky Wil­liams, from Ban­gor, lost her hus­band at the age of just 46, three years af­ter he was di­ag­nosed with ad­vanced bowel can­cer.

In or­der to do some­thing pos­i­tive and give some­thing back to the NHS, Irfon launched the #teamir­fon cam­paign shortly af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed, rais­ing over £150,000 to sup­port pa­tients on Ys­byty Gwynedd’s

Alaw Unit through North Wales NHS Char­ity, Awyr Las.

This cam­paign helped him and his fam­ily come to terms with his sit­u­a­tion and to face ev­ery­day life.

At the end of 2016 the fam­ily were told the dev­as­tat­ing news that Irfon’s can­cer had spread to his lung and ab­domen and five months later he passed away on May 31, 2017.

Becky said: “Irfon was di­ag­nosed with bowel can­cer within two months of him hav­ing the first sig­nif­i­cant symp­toms.

“Al­though we sus­pected there may be some­thing se­ri­ously wrong, to hear the di­ag­no­sis was can­cer at an ad­vanced stage was a huge shock for us and we felt like our life had been turned up­side down.

“Bowel can­cer wasn’t a can­cer I’d heard a lot about and I think that’s due to the fact there is a huge stigma around talk­ing about toi­let habits and bow­els.

“There needs to be more aware­ness amongst the younger gen­er­a­tion around this par­tic­u­lar dis­ease.

“A change in bowel habits is not some­thing to be em­bar­rassed about or ig­nore as it may in­di­cate it could be some­thing more serious.

“It was a huge shock when Irfon was di­ag­nosed as there was no fam­ily his­tory of bowel can­cer and Irfon was a healthy, fit young man.

“Can­cer is like a roller­coaster you can’t get off, it can be ex­haust­ing and is there some­where every minute of every day.

“Irfon was deter­mined the fam­ily carry on life as nor­mal and so our fo­cus was very much on not al­low­ing can­cer to take over our en­joy­ment of life which was at times a huge chal­lenge.”

Fol­low­ing the tragic loss of her hus­band, Becky de­cided to use her ex­pe­ri­ence to help oth­ers and has also been work­ing with Bowel Can­cer UK to raise aware­ness.

Ac­cord­ing to Bowel Can­cer UK over 2,500 peo­ple un­der the age of 50 are di­ag­nosed with Bowel Can­cer each year with a 48 per cent in­crease since

2004.

Becky added: “I have worked with Bowel Can­cer UK sup­port­ing their ‘Never too Young’ cam­paign.

“The cam­paign aims to raise aware­ness of bowel can­cer symp­toms and dis­pel the myth that bowel can­cer is a can­cer that only af­fects the older pop­u­la­tion – you’re never too young for this dis­ease.

“We know that if di­ag­nosed at an early stage then the treat­ment out­comes for bowel can­cer are much im­proved, there­fore it is so im­por­tant that if any­one is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing any of the symp­toms they visit their doc­tor.”

● Becky Wil­liams lost her hus­band, Irfon, at the age of 46 years old, three years af­ter he was di­ag­nosed with ad­vanced bowel can­cer

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