Meet Pippa

When were you diagnosed and what with?

I was diagnosed in July 2014 with stage 3 bowel cancer. I was 33 years old.
How did you find out you had cancer? 

I went to my GP with symptoms of blood in my stools and from not recovering from a stomach bug after a week. I'd had the blood symptoms for 15 months so she referred me for a colonoscopy. During the procedure they found a large tumour which they were unable to pass and they confirmed on the day that it was definitely cancerous.
What did you think and feel when you were diagnosed?

I was in absolute shock when I was diagnosed. As I had experienced symptoms for such a long time, my biggest fear was that they would say there was nothing they could do.
How did the people around you react? 

Everyone was in shock - people's reactions varied with the less helpful comments such as telling me they knew I would be fine or telling me about someone they knew who had died of bowel cancer. Some people were just amazing and were there to listen or distract me, depending on what I needed at the time.
What treatment did you have?

My tumour was in a position that would be tricky to operate on, so I had my treatment up front to help make the surgery easier and less risky. I had 4 rounds of chemo, 25 sessions of radiotherapy, one major abdominal surgery which removed the section of the bowel containing my tumour and creating a temporary ileostomy, and one relatively minor abdominal surgery reversing the ileostomy.
How did you feel through treatment? 

I was lucky that I showed signs early on that my tumour was responding to the chemo, so I always felt confident that the tumour would be removed. I was always anxious of any signs of spread showing during treatment. Every treatment stage was harder than I anticipated, both physically and mentally, but I felt like I was really supported throughout by my amazing medical team, friends and family.
What happened after treatment finished? 

When treatment finished I was shocked to find that I felt totally lost and overwhelmed. I had been warned that it would be challenging but I hadn't appreciated that not only does a lot of your support system fade away (you see your medical team less often and a lot of people seem to assume you're now back to normal) but your body is absolutely wrecked after treatment and it is a long process to build yourself back up.
How did you get involved with Shine?

My chemo nurse gave me a leaflet for Shine. I wasn't sure whether a support group would be for me, I was worried that it would be a bit depressing, but I decided to get in touch and see if it would be helpful and I'm so glad I did!
What difference has Shine made to you?

Shine has not only given me lots of life long friends but it's given me access to support from people who just get it. They understand the anxieties and the physical challenges and they can share their experiences and advice. I know I couldn't have found that support anywhere else.
What‘s been the biggest change you’ve faced?

I think I'm still processing what has happened and the fact that it seems to have been extremely bad luck. The biggest change has been the fatigue I experience now. Prior to diagnosis I constantly over-rode my body when I was tired, but my body doesn't let me physically do that now. I'm having to learn to listen to my body, which can be incredibly frustrating and annoying.
If you could give one piece of advice to yourself before your diagnosis what would it be?

My one piece of advice to my pre-diagnosis self would be to prioritise my health over work and to check out red flag symptoms straight away.