Let’s be honest here. If I’d not been afraid of bowel cancer – I might have got an earlier diagnosis.


Look at it this way. As I wrote in an earlier post I did, in fact, talk to my GP about some possible symptoms. We did look into them. And we both convinced ourselves that there was nothing to worry about – as evidenced by negative bowel cancer tests. (The ones the NHS offers regularly, and which – with one exception – I have always taken.)

The one thing I didn’t talk about?

The change in my bowel habit shortly after Rosemary and I started a Slimming World regime – which, I have to say, was outstandingly successful. Because instead of passing stool every day, like a normal person, I was now passing it every two or three days.

Of course, one of the symptoms of bowel cancer is weight loss. But given the struggles we both had to achieve it, I can say with a reasonable degree of confidence that it was all to do with our diet and exercise regime and nothing to do with cancer. I dropped from 17st 2lb to 12st 9lb over the course of more than two years, and I had to fight for every last pound.

And I was still kidding myself that my change in bowel habit was down to the diet.

Later – much later – I noticed a post from my friend Jasper Bateley. He was warning people to look out for ‘narrow poo’ – constricted stool, indicating a partial bowel blockage.

I had that. Sometimes. But not always. So I convinced myself that it wasn’t a problem. Because, after all, every test had been negative, hadn’t it…?

You can see how this goes, can’t you? It’s so easy to kid yourself that everything is OK. That the thing you fear isn’t happening. That you’re safe.

And I wasn’t.

Which doesn’t make me stupid, or culpable, or blameworthy. It just means I’m a human being like you and everyone else, driven by thoughts and emotions that don’t always serve our own best interests.

It’s OK to be afraid of something as uniquely vile as cancer. It’s OK to respond to the idea of a stoma (as I did) with a mixture of revulsion and horror. Those are both normal reactions. But don’t do what I did. Don’t let the fear of those things colour your response to legitimate warning signs. Get those things checked out.

Because if you do then, with any luck, you have your best chance of avoiding the things you fear.