A Loving Sister's Mission
- Abby Morris’ brother Benjamin Millard was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer at 33 years old—a very young age for a cancer that usually plagues men much older.
- Benjamin was not displaying the usual symptoms of bowel cancer, which is known as colorectal cancer here in the States. He had complained of heartburn and indigestion, and was feeling “low” in general and put on antidepressants. As his health continued to decline, he received his diagnosis.
- Colorectal cancer might not immediately cause symptoms, as in Benjamin’s case, but possible symptoms to look out for include: a change in bowel habits and blood in your stool.
“Benji,” from Frome, outside of Somerset in the UK, was referred to by friends as “Thanos” because he had “a personality as big as the universe.” His sister says he always took care of his health, and even went to the gym two times a day.Read More
The “confident, intelligent man,” as described by his family was not displaying the usual symptoms of bowel cancer, which is known as colorectal cancer here in the States. He had complained of heartburn and indigestion, and was feeling “low” in general and put on antidepressants. The extreme fatigue set in as his health declined, along with shortness of breath, but unfortunately, when there are no overly strange warnings initially, neither doctors nor the patients are scoping out a possibility of bowel cancer.
“It’s vital we challenge this misconception that young people don’t get bowel cancer – early diagnosis is so important – and GPs have a big role to play in that,” Abby said.
With more and more reported cases in younger adults, Abby is set on changing guidelines, and founded The Bowel Movement. According to the site, Abby “has always prized herself on chatting sh*t and has now turned that into a passion to make a difference for young individuals faced with bowel cancer.”
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A large part of the problem with this disease is that people are often too embarrassed to talk about their symptoms, so Abby is promoting her sense of humor as a message to lighten up about these topics of conversation, as they can save lives.
Tragically, Benji died just 8 months following his diagnosis just before he turned 34. The loving husband, son, and brother’s funeral and celebration of life was held on April 30th, “on what would have been his 34th birthday.”
What is Bowel Cancer?
Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel, but generally we use the term colorectal cancer – or colon cancer or rectal cancer depending on the location – in the United States.
Bowel cancer, like all cancers, presents its own unique challenges for patients on the road to recovery. However, Dr. Heather Yeo, a surgical oncologist and colorectal surgeon at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center, wants to remind people how far the treatment of this disease has come.
“One of the most exciting things about my job is that we’ve made a lot of progress on treatment options,” Dr. Yeo says in a previous interview with SurvivorNet. “However, patients are still — while they’re living longer, they are still living with colon cancer, and so I think it’s really important that we talk about how some of the things in your life affect you.”
Colorectal cancer might not immediately cause symptoms, as in Benjamin’s case, but these are possible symptoms to look out for:
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation or narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that’s not relieved by having one
- Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
- Blood in the stool, which might make the stool look dark brown or black
- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
Dr. Yeo also reminds people without symptoms of the importance of colorectal screenings such as colonoscopies because most colorectal cancers can be prevented early with screening.
“In the United States, on a national level, colorectal cancer has been decreasing for the last 20 years,” Dr. Yeo says. “And much of that is thought to be directly due to screening for colon cancer.”