A mum of two who was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 29 is battling her third tumour.
Over the last five years Julie Swallow has had chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery to remove two of the tumours and is currently receiving treatment for her third.
But Julie who lives with husband Chris and two children Jessica, 15, and Adam, ten, says she is one of the lucky ones because her GP was quick to diagnose her.
Now the 34-year-old has joined the ‘Never Too Young’ campaign by Beating Bowel Cancer UK to raise awareness and encourage people to visit thier GPs.
She said the number of people with bowel cancer under the age of 50 is slowly riising which is why the campaign has launched. She said it was often a cancer that was mis-diagnosed which for some people meant that it was terminal when correctly diagnosed.
Julie went to her doctor after noticing blood in her urine, suffering weight loss and had a lot of lower back pain. Blood tests revealed she was anaemic, but the word cancer was never mentioned.
“It was such a shock when I was diagnosed. A lot of people I have spoken to say people my age don’t get that kind of cancer. But since joining Twitter I have found more and more people that are going through the same and some are even younger than me,” she said. “Some of their doctors are saying they are too young for cancer but that is what the campaign is about to raise awareness.”
Julie was first diagnosed with bowel cancer in April 2008 and after receiving treatment and surgery she was given the all clear in January 2009.
Julie decided to celebrate the news by marrying long-term partner Chris who she lives with in Brighouse, in June 2010. “We had been engaged for years and never spoken about marriage until I got the all clear,” she said.
But routine tests showed a slight change and last June she had a hysterectomy. “I went to see a consultant in Huddersfield and the tests were inconclusive so I was transferred to Leeds to see a professor and had a PET scan (a positron emission tomography which produces a 3-dimensional, colour images of the functional process within the body) and that confirmed that the tumour was back and had grown on my pelvic wall,” she said.
She returned again in August last year and was told everything looked fine. But after routine tests Julie was told in January this year that a small tumour had returned but because it is too close to a blood vessel doctors can’t operate. Julie has just started her fortnightly chemotherapy sessions for the next three months in a bid to shrink the tumour.
“I would urge anyone who has any of those symptoms to go to their GP and if you are concerned don’t let them dismiss the idea and asked to be referred. And to anyone who is going through it just stick in there. I know it can often feel like you are just starting to get somewhere when suddenly you take two steps forwards and one step backwards.”
Julie will have chemotherapy for the next two months before having another scan to see how the chemotherapy is working. “I have good and bad days. But I just get on with it and just try and not think about it,” she said. “I have a lot of support from my family which definitely helps having them around.”
She said her brothers have been tested and her two children to check that the cancer is not genetic.
“More and more people are becoming aware of bowel cancer because a lot never knew what the symptoms were. But that is what this campaign is about to raise awareness.
“Tests are sent through the post but a lot of people throw them in the bin. But that is no good. It takes five minutes to do it and send it on and it could save your life. People always think it won’t happen to them. But I have never smoked I didn’t drink and I used to exercise. So it just goes to show you can never tell.
“Even if you are scared still go and get checked because the earlier it is caught the better.”
Julie will also be taking part in the Race for Life in Huddersfield in July. To sponsor her visit www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/julieswallow0