In total it was 15 weeks of tests, scans and consultations before I underwent my first round of chemotherapy. During that time my prognosis changed from survivable to incurable colon, liver and neck cancers as further spread was discovered.
I am now going to ask a very un-British question, one I wish I had asked myself. How have you pooped lately? If the answer is “same as usual, thank you very much,” then you’re probably fine, but keep an eye out because knowing your s— could literally save your life.
Colon cancer indicators include “a persistent change in bowel habits” and “blood in the stool.” Last year in the middle of summer I exhibited both, but at that moment I felt insecure. Because reputable sources like the NHS website don’t go into detail; bowel movements change in many ways.
If you make an effort to pass small amounts of stool and have to do it often, consider at least calling 911. See your doctor if you look in the toilet bowl and discover loose, runny stools about the width of a pencil. If your stool is so ridged it looks like a churro, that’s a problem. And if you have even the slightest hint of red-brown, brown-red or black in the toilet or on the paper, make an appointment.
I’ll never know if raising my hand in March 2022 would have made a big difference to my now almost certain fate. But I’m going to make it my short life’s work to keep talking about it in the hopes that just one person catches this horrible disease early enough to save their own life, because I could have done it and didn’t.
For more information see: intestinalcanceruk.org.uk
To follow Nathaniel’s cancer journey, you can visit his blog: nathanielscancerchronicle.site/