Don't Be Afraid of Toilet Talk
- Charity founder Matthew Wiltshire, 55, has been living with stage 4 bowel cancer for 5 years.
- Initially diagnosed at an earlier stage two years prior at age 48, the husband and father, now 55, has had over 50 rounds of chemotherapy since, along with radiation, to keep his cancer at bay.
- Matthew initially thought the change in his poop was caused by too much red wine and steak, but he went and got screened just in case, and is now urging others to do the same. Don’t put off screening for colorectal cancer because you’re embarrassed to talk about bowel movements.
- Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel. Depending on where cancer starts, bowel cancer is sometimes called colon or rectal cancer, or colorectal cancer.
Matthew had noticed a change in the color of his bowel movement, and had initially thought it could be too much red wine and steak. Something told him to get checked just in case, and unfortunately, it was cancer.Read More
“The doctor said not to worry, at 48, I was too young for bowel cancer,” he recalled of his own experience. A colonoscopy procedure proved otherwise, and found his cancerous tumor.
“My whole world turned upside down. I worried about what treatment I’d need and faced the overwhelming fear that I wouldn’t be around to look after my family as long as I’d planned,” Matthew said. He and his wife Sophie, 51, reside in Weybridge, Surrey in the UK, which is around 17 miles southwest of London.
“I was due to have surgery in 2017 but before carrying out the procedure the surgeon did a scan which showed some suspicious nodules in my lungs,” he explained. “I had to wait eight weeks to see if they grew. They did. I was told I had stage four metastatic colorectal cancer.”
“He said there was no point doing the operation, it was hopeless. I was too far gone.”
Understandably feeling helpless, Matthew decided to take control of his health. He started taking watching what foods he was eating and started taking supplements. “I’ve continued chemotherapy and have probably had 50 rounds to keep the cancer at bay,” he said. “I’ve been stage four for five years now. I’m still here. I’m defying the odds.”
Then Matthew felt compelled to do something bigger to not only help himself, but others going through similar struggles. He founded The Cancer Club, which encourages men to stop putting off going to the doctor and communicating more. Women, by nature, are more likely to take care of their health.
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“My biggest message to anyone with any symptom would be to go and get it dealt with,” he urged. “People live with it for too long. That is especially true of bowel cancer as you have to talk about poo and it’s a taboo subject.
Understanding Bowel Cancer
Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel, says the National Health Service. Depending on where cancer starts, bowel cancer is sometimes called colon or rectal cancer, or colorectal cancer.
In the UK, where Matt lives, bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed. It typically presents in people over the age of 60, but people like Matt are getting diagnosed far younger these days. And in the U.S., colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women, excluding skin cancers.
Dr. Paul Oberstein, director of the Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology Program at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, previously told SurvivorNet a few common symptoms of the disease to look out for:
- Change in bowel movements — sudden changes to the size, consistency or caliber of stool
- Change in stool color — bright red or black stool is a sign that an individual should seek medical attention
- Pain in the abdomen — unusual discomfort or bloating of the stomach. In the case of women, pain isn’t related to the menstrual cycle.
- Sudden and unexplained weight loss — rapid drop in weight that isn’t the result of diet or exercise
- Anemia — Individuals who feel a general sense of malaise or faintness, or are constantly tired or weak much more than usual, may want to consult a doctor.
Many symptoms of bowel cancer are similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome, so make sure to consult with your doctor.