Gran complained of holiday tummy ache before being given devastating diagnosis

A grandmother returning from a sunny break with her husband complained of a holiday tummy ache before being given a devastating diagnosis.

Ann Somerville, 62, suspected something she had eaten in Seville, Spain, had upset her stomach, before a GP told her she actually had bowel cancer .

The former sales rep, from Birmingham, was left in total shock when further tests revealed a cancerous tumour the size of a satsuma in her bowel.

Describing events leading up to her diagnosis, Ann, gran-of-three, told the Birmingham Mail : "I just didn’t feel right in Seville.

"A couple of weeks later I managed to get an appointment with my doctor.

"She examined my bottom and across my tummy. I didn’t know it then, but that’s when she felt the tumour."

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Ann was referred for a colonoscopy, but she admits that ‘alarm bells’ started ringing when her GP told her to go to A&E if her symptoms got worse.

She added: "She told me ‘not to panic’, and told me if the bleeding increased in the meantime, then I should go to A&E .

"When I got home I couldn’t help but Google my symptoms. That’s when i knew I had bowel cancer.

"Everyone said not to be silly, but it all fitted. I had a really bloated tummy, I was tired, I had blood in my poo, I had them all.

"The only thing that hadn’t happened was the weight loss."

Two months later, Ann went for her colonoscopy where a doctor discovered the cancer.

"He took me and my husband into a side room and told us that he suspected I had a malignant tumour," remembers Ann.

"I asked him how he could know without a biopsy. He told me it was the right size and shape, and he would be very surprised if it wasn’t bowel cancer.

"It was an out of body experience. It’s a shock hearing those words.

"I went into angry mode and asked him what we were going to do about it. I refused to leave until I had a date for my next scan.

"I think he knew then that my attitude was pretty resolved. But that’s how I face any problem in life – get it sorted straight away. I wanted to know how we were going to fix it.

"My daughter rang me as we were leaving the hospital and I remember thinking ‘How am I going to tell her that I’ve got cancer?’"

A CT scan just days later revealed that the cancer had not spread to any other organs, and that Ann would require surgery to remove the mass.

On December 21 she went in for the three-hour surgery, where surgeons also removed several enlarged lymph nodes in her pelvis.

Three days later, Ann was allowed home on Christmas Eve, which she described as the ‘best present ever’.

Because the cancer was caught so early she did not need to undergo chemotherapy, and now, fortunately, has been given the all-clear.

Ann said: "I had been working for 46 years full-time, and when you get told you have cancer you go into a bubble."

Stages of bowel cancer

Bowel cancer is staged in two different ways. The first is known as the TNM system.

  • T – this indicates the size of the tumour
  • N – this indicates whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes
  • M – this indicates whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body

Bowel cancer can also be staged numerically.

  • stage 1 – the cancer is still contained within the lining of the bowel
  • stage 2 – the cancer has spread beyond the layer of muscle surrounding the bowel
  • stage 3 – the cancer has spread to lymph nodes
  • stage 4 – the cancer has spread into other parts of the body

“Your mind wanders and of course you think about things like your own funeral.

“Now I’ve finally retired to be a lady of leisure and spend time with my three granddaughters.”

During Bowel Cancer Awareness month this April, Ann is urging others to visit their GP if they have any of the five most common symptoms.

“I could have ignored it, and not gone to see my GP because I was too embarrassed,” she explains.

“But If people are having the symptoms, then they should go and see their doctor urgently.

“No-one will think you’re silly, and it could save your life like it saved mine.”

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