A pregnant mum who lost her baby after being diagnosed with bowel cancer said she wants to break down the stigma surrounding the disease.
Lauren Fresa, who is undergoing chemotherapy at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Wirral, has urged others to discuss their symptoms despite the risk of embarrassment.
Lauren, from Buckley in North Wales, was 33 when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer, reports the Daily Post.
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Lauren was hospitalised in February 2021 with vomiting and severe pain, where doctors discovered a blockage in her bowel and performed emergency surgery to fit a colostomy bag.
Tragically, after undergoing the life-saving surgery, Lauren lost her baby, a boy, four months into her pregnancy.
She said: “The surgeon said I was about twenty four hours away from my bowel completely rupturing and it would’ve killed me.
“Unfortunately we lost the baby and were told it was cancer all within that twenty four hours.”
Following the emergency surgery, it was discovered that Lauren had a tumour in her rectum and the cancer had also spread to her liver.
Now undergoing her second round of chemotherapy at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, Lauren is determined to raise awareness of the disease.
She said: “The thought of this happening to someone else, that makes me feel sick because it was just so traumatising.
“I started the Instagram page to tell my story, to help people to understand that they can be the biggest advocate for their own health because at the end of the day, you know your own body.
“I knew something wasn’t right and if I was in that position again I would’ve been more forceful to get some investigation done sooner.
“It has been an awful ten months, literally horrendous, and the thought of another family having to go through it just makes me really sad so anything I can do to help anybody would just make me feel a bit better.”
Determined to break down the stigma surrounding bowel cancer’s symptoms, Lauren chooses to talk openly about her experience on her Instagram page.
She said: “I understand people are frightened to talk about it because it is talking about poo, and your bottom, and all that sort of stuff but everybody poos, everybody trumps, everybody’s got a bum hole.
“Yes it’s embarrassing, but it’s not as awful as going through this.
“Hopefully by raising awareness it will make people more comfortable in talking about it with their GP if they’re worried.
“Internal exams and colonoscopies can be quite scary and traumatic but it’s important that we normalise it.
“If I can talk about it and one more person gets checked out then it’s all worth it.”
Lauren explained that many of the warning signs of bowel cancer are also common symptoms of many less serious conditions.
She said: “Some of the symptoms like fatigue and a change in bowel movement can be similar to some of the symptoms you get in pregnancy so it can get blamed on the pregnancy, but in our case it wasn’t anything to do with that.
“For me it was such a small symptom to begin with and it could’ve been a million other things.
“I almost wish I had more of the symptoms of bowel cancer, because I only really had one, which was this unexplained change of bowel habit.
“I want people to have the confidence to go to the GP if they know something isn’t right, and if the worst that happens is that you’ve wasted the doctor’s time, then that’s a result in my book.
“I know doctors are stretched and they’ve got a lot to deal with, but if the results all came back fine then I’m sure the doctors would be happy with that.
“So if anybody can get the message from my page that you just have to push, even if you feel like you’re wasting their time, it’s not a waste of time if it’s nothing to worry about.
“You get a lot of people who ignore symptoms or are too frightened to go to the GP, or too embarrassed to talk about it but I wasn’t and I kept going.”
Bowel cancer symptoms
According to NHS guidance, bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK. Most people diagnosed with it are over the age of 60.
The 3 main symptoms of bowel cancer are:
- persistent blood in your poo – that happens for no obvious reason or is associated with a change in bowel habit
- a persistent change in your bowel habit – which is usually having to poo more and your poo may also become more runny
- persistent lower abdominal (tummy) pain, bloating or discomfort – that’s always caused by eating and may be associated with loss of appetite or significant unintentional weight loss
Most people with these symptoms do not have bowel cancer.
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