A MAN from Penarth has become the heart of a campaign to raise awareness of bowel cancer.

Patrick Wymer, 55, has stage four bowel cancer.

Mr Wymer said: “In June 2017, I was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer. It had spread to my lungs and liver. A month earlier, I went to see my GP as I was experiencing persistent stomach pains.

"In hindsight I had at least two of the classic bowel cancer symptoms for a while: weight loss and more frequent and looser bowel movements.

“Being quite slim and never having had a weight problem, the former went largely unnoticed, while the latter I put down to possibly irritable bowel syndrome or a food allergy.

"It never occurred to me that there was anything seriously wrong and I probably didn’t make that crucial doctor’s appointment soon enough."

Every year around 42,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with bowel cancer, with 10,000 people diagnosed at stage four.

“My GP examined me and I was reassured when he told me that I probably didn’t have one of the “nasties”," said Mr Wymer. "Nevertheless, he felt it needed further investigation and referred me to a specialist through my company’s private medical cover. After a consultation and further examination, I was booked in for a colonoscopy.

“However, things escalated quickly and I made two visits to A&E, only to be sent packing on both occasions with nothing more than pain killers. I was beginning to feel desperate.

“It was early one evening and still six days to wait for my colonoscopy. My condition had worsened, I couldn’t eat, was throwing up when I did and my bowel movements were even worse. It meant a third trip to A&E. Sometime after midnight I saw a doctor and following an examination, a scan was booked for the following morning.

“I was wheeled off to an assessment unit and my wife Sarah went home. Around Sunday lunchtime, a junior doctor gave me some welcome news, the scan showed that I had appendicitis! It was being treated as an emergency and I was to have an operation in the next 24 hours.

"Huge relief all round, cheery texts were fired off to anxious family members and I envisaged a week off work with my feet up in the sunshine before returning to normal life."

Bowel cancer is treatable and curable especially if diagnosed early. Nearly everyone survives bowel cancer if diagnosed at the earliest stage.

Mr Wymer said: “In the middle of the night another doctor woke me. A further review of the scan suggested things may be more serious than first thought, so the plan was to perform more invasive surgery to check things out fully.

"The word stoma was mentioned for the first time, though the chances of me requiring one were apparently remote. I signed the consent forms and told them to do whatever was necessary.

“I came round from the operation early on Monday, a nurse looking down at me. I immediately recalled the bleary late-night conversation with the doctor and was desperate to know what had happened.

"The same doctor appeared and explained that a large tumour together with a chunk of my bowel had been removed. It was likely that the tumour was cancerous and yes, I now had a stoma.

“I was transferred to a ward and at some stage Sarah returned, still believing I’d had a routine appendix operation.

"My surgeon visited us. He confirmed what I already knew, but also dealt a knockout blow that the disease had spread to my liver and lungs and I was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer."

Stage four is also known as advanced, secondary or metastatic disease, and is when the cancer spreads from the bowel to other parts of the body, most commonly the liver or lungs.

“I’ve received regular chemotherapy which seems to be keeping the disease in check for now," said Mr Wymer. "The side effects are tough, but I’m determined to stick with it for as long as the treatment is working.”

Mr Wymer is now at the centre of Bowel Cancer UK’s campaign to mark ‘World Advanced Bowel Cancer Day’ today.

Dr Lisa Wilde, director of research and external affairs for Bowel Cancer UK, said: “Patrick’s experience makes the charity even more determined to make real change happen for people diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer. We have been calling on the government for a long time to put initiatives in place to reduce the number of people diagnosed at the late stage of the disease and help ensure more people are diagnosed at the earlier stages.

"This is when bowel cancer is more treatable and chance of survival is high. Being aware of the symptoms and visiting your GP if things don’t feel right can help increase chances of an early diagnosis.”

Find out more about advanced bowel cancer on Bowel Cancer UK’s website: www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk