Two young women with personal stories of bowel cancer are fronting a new film aimed at raising awareness of the disease.
The film has been produced on behalf of The Bowel Movement, a charity set up in memory of Benjamin Millard, from Frome in Somerset, who died from bowel cancer at the age of 33.
The disease has received a higher public profile recently due to the tireless campaigning of the late Dame Deborah James, known as Bowelbabe, who died from bowel cancer.
Emily Harrison, a teacher from Bristol, was repeatedly told she was too young to have bowel cancer when she was displaying symptoms which included chronic pain and bleeding from her bowel.
But six months later she was diagnosed with higher stage 3 cancer.
Mrs Harrison, who is now 40, said: “I remember that day so well.
“When I was having my scan the room just fell silent – but I could see on the screen it was a massive tumour.
“I kept asking ‘Am I going to die? Am I going to die?’ and they just said ‘We don’t know’. It was such a scary time.”
After undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, the mother-of-two embarked on the challenge of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
“I just wanted to show cancer hadn’t beaten me. I just wanted my children to be proud,” Mrs Harrison added.
It’s vital we challenge this misconception that young people don’t get bowel cancer
Abby Morris, sister of Benjamin Millard
Mr Millard’s sister, Abby Morris, 35, a lecturer at Lancaster University, set up The Bowel Movement charity in memory of her brother.
“On the face of it he was such a fit man,” she said.
“When we heard the news, it was devastating. It was so hard to believe.
“It’s vital we challenge this misconception that young people don’t get bowel cancer. Early diagnosis is so important – and GPs have a big role to play in that.”
The two women have now told their stories in a film that has been produced to warn others of the dangers and encourage them to seek help.
The film has been produced by former BBC correspondent Clinton Rogers, who said he just wants to people to be aware and not be embarrassed to come forward if they have symptoms.
Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK.
Consultant colorectal surgeon Paul Mackey, from Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton, said it is people’s reticence to come forward that can lead to serious problems.
Mr Mackey, who also features in the film, said: “People are reluctant to talk about their bowel symptoms and their toileting habits – and that is a big issue.
“But if you’ve got ongoing bleeding, if you’ve got an ongoing change in your bowel habits, you must come forward and be investigated. The rule is: Don’t sit on your symptoms.”
– Don’t Sit On Your Symptoms has become the title for the film, which can be viewed on The Bowel Movement’s website https://www.thebowelmovement.uk/