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39 and fit but nearly died from bowel cancer
Published 14/04/14

A MAN who survived bowel cancer is urging other people to have a check-up.

Toby Fletcher, 40, of Church Street, Henley, was diagnosed in November 2012 and given a 50 per cent chance of survival following surgery to remove his colon.

He said: “It knocked me for six because I look after myself and eat a healthy balanced diet and don’t drink too much. I did all the right things and so I was just in disbelief.”

Now he is supporting Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.

Mr Fletcher, who is married with two young children, first realised something was wrong while on one of his regular long-distance runs in the countryside around Henley.

He said: “I was a fit and healthy guy. I was 39 and I ran cross-country to keep fit, up and down the river and over the Chiltern Hills.

“I then realised that I had to empty my bowel mid-run, which was very unusual for me or anyone. I would have to find a convenient tree or bush to do my stuff.”

Mr Fletcher developed a pain in his left side and would suffer from fatigue which soon became worse.

He recalled: “I found it so difficult that I couldn’t run to the end of my road. I was completely fatigued, out of breath.”

Mr Fletcher, a self-employed business coach and mentor, went to see his GP at the Hart Surgery. He said: “They took some blood and did tests and when the results came back, they said that I was anaemic, which is not good.

“I was referred to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading where I had an examination which showed that I had polyps — little nodules — in my lower bowel.

“A week or so later I had a colonoscopy to see what else was there and it showed that I had in excess of 150 polyps and I was told that I needed to have my colon removed.”

However, before the surgery his bowel ruptured and he was rushed to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

Mr Fletcher recalled: “I was at home having breakfast and felt very unwell. I took some Codeine and had a hot bath but by lunchtime I had doubled up.

“I went to Townlands Hospital and she referred me to the John Radcliffe and that evening I was in surgery. I had a perforated bowel.”

He underwent eight cycles of chemotherapy between April and August last year and lost a lot of weight.

Mr Fletcher said: “I was told I was 50/50. It was stage four cancer — there isn’t a stage five — but I got through it with the help of the chemotherapy.”

He was given the all-clear at Christmas which he says was a “very emotional” time for him and his family.

Mr Fletcher lives with Joolz, whom he married in St Lucia in 2007, and their children, Phoenix, four, and Kai, two, who both attend the Dragonflies Montessori School.

He said his wife had been “so supportive”, adding: “I couldn’t have got through this without her.”

Mr Fletcher has been forced to re-evaluate his life. Whereas he used to run three or four times a week he now goes out once or twice and he has to maintain a balanced diet.

He also has to have a medical check-up every six months for the next five years.

Mr Fletcher urged other people to have a check-up if they think they might have a problem.

He said: “For anyone with symptoms who is embarrassed and reluctant to see a GP, I’d say this: you don’t die of embarrassment but you can die of bowel cancer if you leave it too long.

“The colonoscopy is a simple and quick procedure and ultimately it all comes down to how much value you put on your life. More than 90 per cent of people can be treated successfully if diagnosed in the early stages.”

For more information, visit www.beatingbowelcancer.org.

Published 14/04/14

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