Anna’s story

If I hadn’t heard about Jodi Lee Foundation who knows how much longer I would have waited before my bowel cancer was diagnosed. Things hadn’t been right for a while, but at 39 years of age, and being pregnant with my fourth child, my GP put my symptoms down to pregnancy-related issues.

The most obvious symptom was blood in my stool, and looking back I was very tired, but I was working four days a week, had three young children and another on the way, so it seemed reasonable to feel that way at the time.

Before my diagnosis I had always been fit and healthy, and exercise had been a strong focus in my life. I had just run the Berlin Marathon and beat my personal best marathon time.

I started to experience minor bleeding when I was eight weeks pregnant, but a visit to my GP put my mind at ease. I was given an internal examination and told my symptoms were most likely due to hemorrhoids.

The bleeding continued after I had Stirling but I was led to believe this was due to hemorrhoids lingering post-pregnancy.

It was then I came across The Jodi Lee Foundation … on an Instagram post about a friend of mine who was taking part in a Foundation event. I clicked through to the website and read stories that sounded remarkably similar to mine. It made me question if perhaps my symptoms were something more sinister.

The very next day I went back to the GP and demanded a colonoscopy. The doctor was reluctant but I pushed for a referral and had the procedure. I knew something was wrong when I came out of the anaesthetic and my husband Gareth was by my side. He was supposed to be watching our older children compete in a cross-country event.

At this stage Stirling was eight months old. I had been experiencing symptoms for 15 months.

The colonoscopy revealed a large tumour in my bowel, and my worst fears were realised when results confirmed I had cancer, which had spread to four lymph nodes. Soon after I had surgery, followed by 6 months of chemotherapy.

The most important thing to me was to carry on with my normal life as much as possible. I was adamant we maintain the same household routines and a calm environment for the children. I am lucky to have an amazing husband, as well as extremely supportive parents, mother-in-law, brother and friends.

We decided to tell our three eldest children, Freya, Jock and Minty that I had bowel cancer. Each of them reacted so differently, ranging from concerns about whether I would still be able to do the hockey training run, to wanting to know details about the treatment I would need to have.

I am now on the road to recovery and having regular check-ups to make sure I remain cancer-free. I have no doubt The Jodi Lee Foundation saved my life and I hope my story will encourage others have the strength to question what is happening to their bodies and push for a diagnosis.