When Adele Roberts announced she had bowel cancer last week, many were surprised as she is only 42.
The Radio 1 DJ bravely shared pictures of her pulling up her pink hospital nightgown to unveil her newly fitted stoma bag, writing: "It’s all happened so quickly from diagnosis to treatment but that’s the brilliance of the NHS."
She continued: "I’ve got a bit of a wait to hear about my tumour and what it will mean for the future, but fingers crossed it’s good news."
In the days since, Adele has shared plenty of updates with fans as she adjusts to life with a stoma – and her posts have proved inspiring for other women who have faced the same diagnosis.
"Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK,’ says Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK. "it ss more common in the over 50s, but it can affect people of all ages. Every 15 minutes someone is diagnosed with the disease – that’s over 42,000 people every year.
"One procedure for some bowel cancer patients, which may be temporary or permanent, is a stoma, like Adele has," explains Genevieve. "A stoma is where a section of bowel is brought out through an opening on your stomach area.
"Your bowel movements are collected in a pouch or bag attached to the skin around your stoma. For some people it can take some time to get used to having one, but with practice many people find that they can resume their day to day activities such as work, physical activities and socialising."
School teacher Beverley Jones, 43, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, was just 29 when she was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer in 2008. She has been living with a stoma since then and insists she won’t let it hold her back.
Here, she shares her story…
I first noticed blood in my poo on holiday in October 2007, but I didn’t think much about it. I was only 29, and had no family history of cancer. So I ignored it, and for a couple of months, everything returned to normal.
Then, that December, I became I was horribly constipated. I didn’t go for a number two for almost a week, I was bloated and in pain. I knew something was wrong and went to my GP. She examined me and said ‘I don’t want to alarm you, but I can feel something.'
I was referred to the local hospital, who were brilliant, for an MRI, a colonoscopy and blood tests. By January 2008, I was told the news everyone dreads – I had bowel cancer. I didn’t cry but sat in shock as the consultant explained I had an egg sized tumour, just a finger length up from my rectum. I couldn’t take it in, I just wanted my mum.
I was given the options of either having radiotherapy to try and shrink it, or surgery to remove it. I just wanted it out of me as soon as possible so chose the latter. I was booked in for the operation just three days later so I knew it was serious. During a ten hour operation doctors removed the tumour and fitted an ileostomy, which I was told would be temporary at the time.
Later, a biopsy confirmed my cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, and I had 20 of them removed. Unfortunately there were further complications with my bowel, and I caught a nasty infection which saw me spend four months in hospital. I was in a lot of pain and I was scared I was going to die. I couldn’t work for over a year, then I was later made redundant. I had some very dark times worrying about money and my life. Would I ever meet anyone? Would I have children?
I was so grateful to reach the five years in remission in 2013. But I was also told then that I didn’t have enough bowel left to ever successfully remove my stoma bag. But I’ve learned to live with it.
I am now 43 and a dab hand at looking after my stoma and keeping it clean. With the help of some fantastic nurses I’ve learned how to change it daily and empty it when I go to the loo. I’ve luckily never had any disasters, but it does take a little while to get used to it.
Everyone with a stoma is different, but I know the foods that I personally need to avoid now – like nuts, seeds and some kinds of vegetables. I have to wear loose clothing, so I live in dresses, but no one can ever tell and it doesn’t stop me from living a normal life in any way.
I still swim, and I just wear high waisted bikinis at the beach. If people see my scars or even the top of my bag, I don’t care. They can ask me and I’ll be open about it. I’ve spotted other men and women on beaches with their stomas showing, and it gave me confidence. If they didn’t mind, why should I?
I’m currently single, and because of the bowel cancer I won’t have children, but I’ve had two partners since I’ve had the stoma. The most embarrassing thing is bringing it up initially. But after that honest chat, then it’s just a case of working together when you get intimate to see what fits where when you get down to the nitty gritty!
Of course I was scared of being rejected because of it, but people are understanding and considerate. No one has ever been rude to me. I have learned that having a stoma isn’t a life sentence, you can do all the normal things you want to.
I have seen Adele Robert’s story and I am so pleased she has been so open about her bowel cancer. I would urge everyone to know their own bodies and what is normal for them. Don’t assume bowel cancer is only for old people. Don’t be embarrassed about poos or bums. Going for checks could save your life. It did mine.”
A stoma is an opening which is made on the abdomen with surgery, to divert urine or faeces out of the body and into a colostomy bag. There are many reasons why people get stomas including bowel cancer like Adele, or other chronic illnesses such as Crohn’s Disease and they can be temporary or permanent.
The cells in your body normally divide and grow in a controlled way. When cancer develops, the cells change and can grow in an uncontrolled way.
Most bowel cancers develop from non-cancerous growths called polyps. Not all polyps develop into cancer. If your doctor finds any polyps, they can remove them to lower the risk of them becoming cancerous.
Cancer cells may stay in the bowel or they mightspread to other parts of the body, like the liver or lungs.
If you have any symptoms, don’t be embarrassed and don’t ignore them. Doctors are used to seeing lots of people with bowel problems.
Bowel cancer is very treatable but the earlier it’s diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. People whose cancer is diagnosed at an early stage have a much higher chance of successful treatment than those whose cancer has become more widespread.
Symptoms can include:
- Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
- A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
- A pain or lump in your tummy
Most people with these symptoms don’t have bowel cancer. Other health problems can cause similar symptoms. But if you have one or more of these, or if things just don’t feel right,go to see your GP.
Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK (after lung cancer). Yet – if caught early – it’s one of the most treatable. While over nine out of ten new cases are diagnosed in people over the age of 50, it can affect anyone of any age
Around 268,000 people living in the UK today have been diagnosed with bowel cancer.
More than nine out of ten new cases (94%) are diagnosed in people over the age of 50, and nearly six out of ten cases (59%) are diagnosed in people aged 70 or over. But bowel cancer can affect anyone of any age. More than 2,500 new cases are diagnosed each year in people under the age of 50.
1 in 15 men and 1 in 18 women will be diagnosed with bowel cancer during their lifetime. The number of people dying of bowel cancer has been falling since the 1970s. This may be due to earlier diagnosis and better treatment.
For more information visitbowelcanceruk.org.uk.
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