Choosing Health Over Ego
- Nick Summerfield from Pimlico, London, was shocked to find out he had bowel cancer at 33 years old.
- The vacation rental manager, now 34, almost didn’t get checked due to the “embarrassing” nature of his symptom, which included constipation and blood in his stool.
- 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.
“I think really the reason I want to give a voice is to say go and see your GP. It doesn’t have to be cancer-related, but if something doesn’t look or feel right, go and see your doctor – that’s why they are there,” Nick said in an interview.Read More
“I was the fittest I’d ever been, I was gymming a lot – I don’t smoke, and I don’t drink that much alcohol – I put on some muscle and was looking good and feeling good,” he said of his pre-cancer body. In other words, based on his personal appearance, you could not tell whatsoever that he had cancer.
Nick’s Bowel Cancer Diagnosis
During Christmas 2020, Nick started noticing his bowel changes: constipation and diarrhea. For once, he said he had “let his hair down” amid COVID and thought his sudden health choices while enjoying the holiday season were to blame.
“Before that, I’d go to the toilet once or twice a day with no issues, and I put the change in bowel habits down to the fact that I was not eating too well – then in January I went back to clean and healthy living and my bowel habits were still struggling, then I started getting blood in my poo,” he explained further.
Nick said he did “that classic male thing of not doing anything about it,” but luckily listened to his mother’s advice, and went in to see someone.
After the first trip, he was deemed okay. Then when symptoms persisted, he was able to get a colonoscopy scheduled. After doctors found a tumor, he went in for more testing—it was bowel cancer.
“My oncologist said to me the average age of his patients was in the 70s, but I was 33 at the time,” Nick said of his February 2021 diagnosis.
After an extremely difficult two years, Nick is happy to report that he is now cancer-free, but says he is still suffering emotionally. One of the harder parts of the journey was having to use a stoma bag, which is particularly hard for younger people, understandably.
“My life will never be the same again, and I’m still mentally trying to get my head around that – I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I’ve gone through.”
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. But 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.”
Dr. Yeo also reminds people 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.”
Symptoms of Bowel Cancer (Colorectal Cancer)
Colorectal cancer might not immediately cause symptoms, 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