Having been diagnosed with incurable bowel cancer almost a year ago the main emotion I feel is guilt. If I had paid more attention to possible symptoms of the disease my family and friends wouldn’t have to be preparing for the fact that only 11 percent of people in my position survive longer than five years.

My issues were compounded by the fact that I had meningitis shortly before being diagnosed with cancer, so at the time a lot of my symptoms were thought of as just being related to that.

And the simple answer to my GP’s question about why doctors in the hospital treating me for meningitis did not detect that I had cancer is that NHS hospitals don’t work like that. They were only looking for what they thought they would find, instead of investigating all potential issues.

My advice is to be less like me and to be more like the British Transport Police mantra of ‘see it, say it, sorted’. I missed these six signs but if you experience any of them you should say something to your GP.

They might not be a sign that there’s cancer but no matter what the issue is the sooner you say something the sooner you can be treated.

Extreme tiredness/fatigue

Last year while googling different ways to cook broccoli I was convinced I was tired because I wasn’t getting enough vitamins in my diet.

Most of the time I was exhausted and couldn’t put my finger on why. Tiredness is a symptom of our 21st century existence with everyone rushing everywhere trying to get a million things done at once.

But if you’re feeling like your level of tiredness is much higher than normal I’d advise you to see your GP as it might be a symptom of a bigger issue.

Back pain

At 44 years old I haven’t quite reached the stage where my knees creak when I get up from the sofa but back pain and I have been familiar with each other for quite a few years.

So I wasn’t alarmed when I had a slight pain in my lower back after sitting in the back of a car or after sitting at my desk at home.

This pain disappeared after my first chemotherapy session, making me think it might have actually been caused by a tumour.

Blood in your poo

This is a big clue that there may be bowel cancer or another issue with your body and you should tell your GP as soon as you can.

Until being diagnosed with bowel cancer I always wondered how someone was able to detect this and I’d suggest that the best thing to do is to look for blood or a reddish tinge on the toilet paper when you use the loo. 

I was naively reassured when I was in hospital for meningitis as they tested several stool samples for various infections and never mentioned anything about blood being present.

A simple home test done a few weeks later revealed that there was blood in my poo and my bowel cancer ‘journey’ began.

Stabbing pains when using the toilet

If they’d happened every time I went to the toilet I would have told my GP about the stabbing pains I experienced.

But they went away as quickly as they came so I did not book an appointment to flag them as an issue.

Instead of being like me I urge you to think that just because the pain isn’t constant, the reason for the pain will still be there inside you and the best way to start treatment is to tell your doctor.

Extreme weight loss

After my stay in hospital for meningitis I weighed myself to see how much weight I’d lost.

I was delighted that after two weeks of vomiting and diarrhoea I’d lost almost two stone and was going to be beach body ready.

My GP didn’t see it that way and flagged that such weight loss wasn’t healthy and was probably caused by an issue inside me.

If you do find yourself rapidly losing weight and there’s no explanation for it then get yourself a doctor’s appointment.

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