In 2018 a member of the group, suggested that we produce a book containing details of the journeys our members have undertaken. This idea was universally approved and so we set about collecting stories from our members. These were collated and we published a book with a short introduction from Victoria Graham of BBC Spotlight, for distribution to newly diagnosed bowel cancer patients.
If you would like your own copy of the final publication, either for yourself or for someone worried about what might happen next, contact our team.
About the Founder of the group
Hi, my name is Wendy, and I am the founder member of this lovely group. Let me tell you a little bit about my journey…
In December 2015 I completed the routine bowel cancer test that anyone over the age of 50 is eligible for. It came back showing irregular cells and so I was asked to go into Treliske Hospital for a colonoscopy. A small tube with a camera is inserted into the back passage so that the whole of the large intestine can be checked.
I was informed straight away that I did have bowel cancer and I was given an appointment to see a specialist. What a lovely thing to hear on Christmas Eve. Our one-hour journey home was done in silence. Neither my husband Stuart, or I could take this information in as I hadn’t had any real symptoms and didn’t feel ill.
I decided to tell our 4 grown up sons. I kept the news upbeat and tried to convince them that I wasn’t worried. It would be chopped out, and things would then return to normal. For me it was important that we shared my journey with them and other family members and friends. I went onto Facebook and told everyone that ‘Albert’ (that’s what I called my cancer) had invaded my body and was going to be evicted in January.
Just 3 weeks later on the 12th January I went into hospital to have Albert removed. Unfortunately, Albert was quite aggressive and by the time I had had my operation he had already broken through the bowel wall. This meant that I had to have 6 months of chemotherapy. Those 6 months were a challenge. At times I felt so ill and completely exhausted, but I felt safe knowing that the hospital was checking on my every move. However, once treatment had finished, I was told that I wouldn’t need to be seen for 6 months. That’s when I became very vulnerable, in fact scared. Who was going to be there for me now?
Our hospitals are amazing. They are there every step of the way during your treatment, but sadly can not provide the after care many of us need. For me I needed to talk to people who had been through the same experiences. This is when I met Keith, a fellow bowel cancer survivor. We decided that what was needed was a support group for everyone who has been touched by cancer to share their thoughts and experiences.
There was already a fantastic support group in Cornwall, but nothing in Devon... and so, the Plymouth & District bowel Cancer Support Group was formed.
It took 8 months for us to get everything organised and get the group up and running.
Sadly, Keith lost his battle with cancer, and died a month after the group was started. I still miss him dearly.
4 years on and the group is going from strength to strength. We have 138 members, and a highly active private Facebook group. The group normally meet once a month for tea, coffee, cakes, and a chat. We have social days out, guest speakers, a Christmas party and 2 raffles each year. We also offer emotional support when things are not going so well for a member.
Like one of our members said “We are just one big family”
Thankfully, I am in remission from my cancer. I have remained positive throughout my journey and believe our support group has helped me remain that way.