“His soul swooned as he heard the snow falling through the universe and falling, like the descent of their end, upon all the living and the dead”.

There is a lot of ‘why me?’ that goes on quite soon after diagnosis. “Why me, what did I do to deserve this?”

I asked this of my oncologist once, and the response was simply put, “well from the overall health of you, you didn’t do anything. Sometimes this happens”.

A case of luck then. Except when you look at the overall statistics of the big ‘C’, it’s more like a case of 1 in 2. The words, straight from Cancer Research themselves, “1 in 2 people born after 1960 in the UK will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime”. I mean, that’s some frightening shit right there, and I already have ‘it’.

Looking further into statistics around my cancer, the poo cancer (sorry, cancer of the colon) there has been a 48% rise in the incidence in the young, since 2004! It’s crazy. The chances are going up, not down, and yet there still aren’t effective campaigns in the media really, I mean that cover ALL cancers that serve to educate the young. Sure there are very good campaigns to spot particular types of cancer, often led my charities that do marvellous work. But when you’re ill, how do you know what flavour of ill you are? The approach has to be broad education surely.

The key to successful management is early presentation. As in my case, many are delayed or shooed away a number of times from medical practices with another explanation for that repeating symptom, because you’re too young for cancer, it’s improbable. Except that while it’s improbable, it’s also possible.

Bowel cancer, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer associations and charities all have their own education programmes about what to look for in terms of early signs. They’re all excellent, but I’ve struggled to find some sort of universal grid that people, especially the young (as they’re the ones most at risk of presenting at later stages) can use to review classic symptomatic information. Sure, it’s up to your GPs to diagnose you correctly, but in those 10 minute appointments (of which you’re one of many in a day) can you really truthfully leave access to (at the very least) the knowledge of possible symptoms, up to your clinician? I’m not trying to say your GP is bad. Far from it. What I am trying to say and not so eloquently, is that crushing cuts to NHS services has made it very hard for your GP to get to the essence of things in a squeezed and pressurised first-line appointment.

The best overarching information I have found across a number of cancers is here: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancer-symptoms

..I beg, implore you, plead on my knees with you that, a) you read some of this to educate yourselves anyway and b) that if you ever find any persistent change in any bodily part/function whatsoever, you see your GP immediately, and read these again before you go to see them. Fuck it, read any relevant part twice and read it good.

Yes…you there with your hand up at the back…. I realise I’m being a bit full-on and scary-Mary about this, but I care about this and I want you all to be living the best healthy lives possible, so I’m prepared to sound like a lecturing matron for a moment or two. Occurrence in the young in some cancers is sadly shifting upwards and I don’t want you to be in my shoes right now (even though I wear shit-hot classy brogues). Because cancer is indiscriminate. People can just be unlucky, “sometimes this happens”, and like the snow at the end of ‘Dubliners’….surprises have the potential to fall on us all wherever we may stand. I just want you to dodge them.

[You are excused from today’s lecture. You may now go and eat a biscuit].


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