Bowel Cancer – Age is not a factor

Every year 2,500 younger people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK and this number is slowly increasing as more young people are engaging in lifestyle habits that increase their risk.  Bowel Cancer IOM has produced a postcard sized guide to symptoms featuring Jamie Carr. The following is Jamie’s story as told by his family.

The day that changed our lives forever… 4 May 2016 –  Jamie, just 35 years old, was diagnosed with Stage IV Bowel Cancer. A 25cm tumour had been found in his colon and it had already spread to his liver and lungs. It was inoperable, and the prognosis was poor. The options were brutal, with chemo it could buy him up to 2 years and without it 6 months. Jamie was terminally ill …..

Jamie had always been a very competitive, active, healthy and sporty lad. He had a wide circle of friends, a winning smile and a twinkle in his blue eyes. He led a busy life with two children aged 4 and 5 who he doted on – he would always say that they were his greatest achievement in life. His children adored him. When Jamie left school, he went to work at Lloyd’s Bank, working his way up through the ranks to Senior Relationship Manager, a job he really enjoyed. Jamie played football regularly for Douglas Royals where he was one of their top scorers and had taken up body building. He would go to the gym up to 5 times a week, sometimes more, and followed a strict diet which included lots of protein and vegetables. Jamie was in peak physical condition.

So, how did this happen? On reflection Jamie recalled passing small amounts of blood is his stools which would last a day or so. He ignored this, and it had stopped, and he thought it was probably a pile (haemorrhoids) or diet related. This was about 6 months before diagnosis. Jamie had said he was very tired and used to go to bed early when the children went to bed. He said he was eating loads as part of his body building regime and never put any weight on. He put this down to his busy lifestyle.

Jamie started to get stomach ache/cramping after eating, sometimes followed by a bowel movement. These would sometimes be loose and sometimes solid. He said it would be worse after a cheat day when he would have a break from his strict food intake, indulging himself in pizza, chocolate and fizzy drinks. The stomach ache began to increase until it was there all the time. His work colleagues became concerned and sent him to Noble’s hospital to get checked out.

Jamie went straight in to see his mum who worked in Noble’s. She instinctively knew something wasn’t right – he looked pale and was in pain. Jamie was never one to moan about aches or pains. She took Jamie to A&E thinking it could be something like irritable bowel syndrome or something similar. Jamie had routine bloods, x-ray etc and was made comfortable. Alarm bells went off in my head when his bloods came back well out of normal ranges. Jamie was admitted immediately for further investigation; CT scans and colonoscopy were carried out over the next couple of days. It was then that we first heard the results of what they had found. We, and the doctors, could not believe it. Jamie looked the picture of health and his body was in prime physical condition through exercise and clean eating.

What next? Palliative chemo was offered on Island, but as Jamie had private medical care he chose to go private with a Professor in Harley Street. The chemo was going to be a lot stronger, opening up more options to make it possible for the main tumour in the bowel to be operated on and removed once it had shrunk. Jamie was a fighter and wanted to fight the cancer as he had plenty to live for. Over the next 7 months Jamie had 12 rounds of harsh chemo and numerous admissions to hospital for pain relief, vomiting, abdominal pain, bleeding, DVT’s, bowel obstructions, stents inserted, bowel perforation/abscess. He became weak and lost a lot of weight. Jamie passed away peacefully surrounded by his family at Hospice Isle of Man. We laid Jamie to rest on 15 December 2016, what would have been his 36th birthday.

The impact this has had on not just Jamie’s immediate family, but also his close friends and work colleagues, has been immeasurable and continues. Jamie’s friends felt the need to do something in his memory and to help raise awareness about bowel cancer, so they organized the “Remember Jay Fun Day” in June 2017. There were inflatables, stalls, a raffle, fancy dress, a 5 aside football competition, and much more. It was a huge success raising over £5,000 so they  decided to hold the event again in 2018 and managed to raise even more.

Without a doubt the message we would give out as a family is “listen to your body” and seek medical help as soon as possible if you have any of the symptoms Jamie described as it could save your life.

Bowel Cancer IOM is very grateful to Jamie’s family for sharing his story and supporting the charity’s work.

  • A postcard reference guide was delivered to every household in the Island during April 2018.  More copies can be obtained by emailing bowelcanceriom@manx.net
  • Knowing the symptoms of bowel cancer could save your life.