Woman, 25, hit with cancer after spotting ‘dark’ sign in her stool
Bowel cancer: Dr Hilary outlines the main symptoms
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“It was just a normal day” for the then 25-year-old Katie Thatcher, from Rochester, Kent. She was seeing a new boyfriend and noticed that something was off about her bowel movement in his “quite bright” bathroom. “I don’t know if I would have necessarily seen it if I was somewhere else because it was quite bright and the light was good,” she said. This red flag sign led to a stage two bowel cancer diagnosis back in 2007.
Bowel cancer often announces itself inside the bathroom walls, which means that paying attention to any unusual bowel movements is front and centre.
Katie’s first sign also cropped up on the loo. Speaking to Express.co.uk, the now 41-year-old said: “I went to the toilet and then I could see that there was some dark-coloured blood within my stool.
“I noticed it and thought, ‘Oh, that was a bit strange’ but I just thought that maybe it was a pile or something like that because I was only young.”
This wasn’t the only time that Katie noticed the “dark blood” within her poo but it wasn’t until her mum prompted her to go see doctors that she did.
Despite being somebody that always felt tired, Katie didn’t experience any other warning signs that made her think it might be bowel cancer.
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According to the NHS, the full list of “main” symptoms to look out for includes:
- Persistent change in bowel habits (pooing more often, with looser, runnier poos)
- Blood in the poo without other symptoms of piles (haemorrhoids)
- Abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating (always brought on by eating)
- Loss of appetite and weight loss.
The health service recommends seeing a GP if you have any of the symptoms of bowel cancer for three weeks or more.
Fortunately, Katie’s GP at the time referred her straight to a colorectal consultant at the nearest hospital, who booked her in for a colonoscopy.
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In a previous interview with Bowel Cancer UK, she said: “A couple of weeks later, the results were back – I had bowel cancer.
“I was in complete shock. How can I have cancer? I feel absolutely fine and look fine.”
After the diagnosis, Katie had an operation to remove the cancerous area and had part of her bowel re-sectioned.
She also had genetic testing which identified that Katie has Lynch syndrome, which is a condition that makes you more likely to get bowel cancer and other types of cancer at a younger age.
Fast forward 14 years, Katie, who was now married and with two children – a daughter, eight, and a son, three, – was overdue a colonoscopy that sadly found that her cancer returned in 2020.
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The mum of two, who now works as an Executive Assistant for Bowel Cancer UK, said: “I had no symptoms at all and it was only part of my normal two-yearly surveillance that it was picked up.”
This time, Katie decided on the most “drastic option” to have her large bowel removed and have ileostomy formed. “This would remove my main risk areas,” she said.
An ileostomy is where the small bowel is diverted through an opening in the tummy, known as a stoma. The NHS explains that a special bag is placed over the stoma to collect waste products that usually pass through the colon and out of the body.
Katie said: “After my operation – that was during Covid times so I didn’t have any visitors – I had all the time by myself in the hospital to kind of get used to putting the bag on.
“There were accidents and mistakes along the way but there was a really good team of stoma nurses that would come in and help.”
Luckily, Katie has gotten used to her stoma now and she’s been “really fortunate” not to have any problems with it.
What’s more, the 41-year-old is now doing “really good” and has six-monthly checks but everything keeps coming back “clear”.
Katie added: “I feel like it’s made me a stronger person and made me want to make other young people aware of symptoms and that early diagnosis really is everything because my story could have been so different.”
Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive at Bowel Cancer UK, said: “Katie’s passion for raising awareness of bowel cancer is so inspiring and has even led her to work with us here at Bowel Cancer UK; we couldn’t be prouder of her.
“I would strongly encourage everyone to check their poo and if something has changed or doesn’t look right to you, then don’t wait – contact your doctor.”
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