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Joanne's warning after bowel cancer shock

Joanne Twinn never imagined she would be diagnosed with bowel cancer at 48 years-old. But each year more than 2,500 younger people are diagnosed with the disease in the UK, typically associated with the over-50s.

Joanne, who lives in Cambridge, was diagnosed in January 2018 and is now in remission following treatment. She is hoping to raise awareness of the symptoms to help others get diagnosed quicker.

“I passed blood,” Joanne explained. “It wasn’t major. It was just that one episode, nothing else. I didn’t have any other symptoms and I hadn’t been unwell.”

Joanne was due to attend a doctors’ appointment for another matter, but mentioned the episode and was referred for tests.

She explained: “Because I was 48 at the time, I didn’t hit any major triggers. I was referred for a colonoscopy, but it wasn’t done quickly. If I had hit more triggers it would have been fast-tracked.

“Because of my age and having no symptoms, I’m lucky the doctor referred me. I had a colonoscopy and was diagnosed with bowel cancer. That was in January and I’d gone to the doctors in October.

“Don’t presume you’ve got something until you go to the doctor. Most people probably think that it’s piles or irritable bowel, but luckily for me my doctor referred me because that’s not always the case.”

Joanne Twinn talks of her treatment and support while fighting cancer at home in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell. (8050701)
Joanne Twinn talks of her treatment and support while fighting cancer at home in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell. (8050701)

Joanne, who works in health and social care, had surgery the week after her diagnosis followed by six months of chemotherapy. She was treated at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

“Everything happened really quickly,” she said. “When I was told that it was contained we were celebrating because I was so shocked that I’d been diagnosed. I wasn’t sure if it was everywhere. So for me I had the chance to fight it, which I did.”

After her surgery, Joanne was keen to raise awareness and
took straight to Facebook to share her story.

“People say that what you don’t know won’t hurt you, but no it could kill you,” she urged.

Almost 42,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK.

The disease is treatable and curable, especially if diagnosed early. Nearly everyone survives bowel cancer if diagnosed at the earliest stage. However, this drops significantly as the disease develops.

More than 16,000 people die from bowel cancer in the UK every year. It is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK.

The symptoms of bowel cancer can include: bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo; a persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit; unexplained weight loss; extreme tiredness for no obvious reason; or a pain or lump in your stomach.

“When you look for the other side effects it’s hard because one is tiredness,” said Joanne. “But I work full-time and I have grandchildren and I’m always on the go. Looking back now was that a sign?”

While at hospital, Joanne came across a Cambridge-based charity called Something To Look Forward To. The charity seeks to
relieve the stress and aid the recuperation of those who are experiencing the effects of cancer and its treatment, together with their families.

It provides a comprehensive website where people with cancer and their families can access a variety of free ‘gifts’ donated by companies and individuals.

These include free breaks in holiday cottages, restaurant meals, days at the races, hotel stays, theatre tickets, beauty treatments, tickets for attractions and more.

Francesca Abery, service and development manager at the charity, explained: “We’re quite a small family-run charity. We provide gifts and experiences to families affected by cancer and cancer-poverty – the financial hardship that comes along with
a diagnosis.”

Joanne Twinn talks of her treatment and support while fighting cancer at home in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell. (8050696)
Joanne Twinn talks of her treatment and support while fighting cancer at home in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell. (8050696)

Francesca said that 80 per cent of cancer patients are £600 a month worse off during treatment.

“At a time when people deserve a little treat, it’s the time when they can least afford it,” she said.

Joanne now volunteers for the charity and is hosting a fundraising event at Milton Community Centre on Saturday, October 5 between 7.30pm and midnight. There will be live music from The Freddie Hall Band followed by a disco and raffle. Tickets priced at £10 go on sale at the end of July from either the charity or the community centre.

For support and information about bowel cancer, visit Bowel Cancer UK.

For more information about the charity visit, Something To Look Forward To. Any businesses or individuals who would like to donate experiences should good in touch via the website.

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