A single mum to 2 children, Andrea was diagnosed with bowel cancer after experiencing symptoms which she initially suspected was IBS.

“I was diagnosed in June 2019, aged 43. My symptoms leading up to diagnosis were cramping, bloating, extreme diarrhoea, fullness after eating small amounts. When in addition to these symptoms, I spotted blood in my faeces, I knew something was not right. I was diagnosed 3 months later, June 2019. 

I had surgery to remove the cancer and was fitted with a colostomy. I had six months of chemotherapy, during which time, I could not taste food, my palms and soles became very dark, blistered and peeling. I had blisters all inside my mouth, lost some teeth and experienced overwhelming tiredness that would have me bedridden for days.”

After chemotherapy, Andrea was fitted with a stoma.

“My temporary colostomy was due to be reversed after completion of my chemotherapy in Jan 2020. My scheduled operation in April 2020 was cancelled due to COVID and rescheduled for Dec 2020.

“Due to a spike in COVID numbers at that time, my operation was again cancelled with no rescheduled date. The wait was agonising, at which time I experienced depression. 

“My reversal was finally scheduled for November 2021. During my consultation, I was informed that I would be fitted with another temporary stoma, this time on my small intestine, an ileostomy which would allow the rejoined large intestine to heal.

“I did not think they were being serious as I had never been informed of this before!" The delay due to COVID had an impact: my large intestine and rectum had narrowed because they hadn't been used for so long which meant that additional procedures had to be performed.”


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Living with stomas affected Andrea’s life and took a lot of adjustment. 

“I’d had the stoma for two years so I knew how to manage it and which foods would trigger a motion. The ileostomy was more challenging to manage: it would constantly fill up with loose faeces and on many occasions, the stoma would peel away from my skin and I would be covered in my own excrement. I did not have uninterrupted sleep for months,  I had to wake up numerous times throughout the night to empty the stoma. It was exhausting and overwhelming. 

“I had to change the way I dressed and I had to overthink everything. I couldn’t do 'spontaneity' – for example a friend invited me to attend a street food festival, but I declined as I knew I would need access to a toilet."

The ileostomy was reversed in summer 2022 and Andrea has been recovering from the surgery.

“I still have to be very conscious of my diet and access to toilets. And as I have not been able to exercise for so long, I am having to be careful too. I am starting to get out and about and want to enjoy summer with my children. I'm grateful, optimistic about my future and I'm getting to know the new Andrea. I am a cancer survivor"

"This whole experience has changed my perspective. I'm grateful, optimistic about my future and I'm getting to know the new Andrea. I am a cancer survivor" - Andrea