My purpose in setting up this web site is twofold:
I tell it 'as it is'. I pull no punches. If, in the result, it is FAR too long, I can only apologise. Perhaps, one day, I'll divide it into several pages, with a menu.
I am NOT a Doctor. I therefore give no advice on the symptoms or treatment of Bowel Cancer - also called Cancer of the Bowel (although this expression does not normally include cancer of the small intestine), Colon Cancer or Colo-rectal Cancer.
Lynn with Prince Charles.
Lynn & the Pope.
However, LYNN'S BOWEL CANCER CAMPAIGN (charity number 1099455) set up with medical backing by my fellow bowel cancer victim, Lynn Faulds Wood does it superbly. Lynn is the former BBC Watchdog presenter (now appearing on GMTV) and has done more for bowel cancer victims, and increasing public awareness of the disease, than anyone else. It is largely due to her efforts that the government has now, at long last, been persuaded to set up a bowel cancer screening project.
CONGRATULATIONS, LYNN, ON YOUR HONORARY DOCTORATE FOR SERVICES TO BOWEL CANCER !
The run-up was uneventful. I was fit, regularly running a mile and
ate HUGE quanties of fruit and vegetables. But my mother had had bowel cancer
twice, and died of it, as had my grandmother on my father's side of the family.
Having cause for concern at age 60 about blood in my poo I therefore saw a specialist, who only looked up my bum with a 9 inch endoscope (presumably so-called because they use it to look up your rear end) and found nothing. Putting it down to piles, he assured me that my family history was of no significance.
However, he warned me to look out for these symptoms:-
Four years passed. Gradually, imperceptibly, things changed. By now I was 64. I had no more blood, no pain or discomfort, no tiredness, bloating or anything else. But yes, I DID have to spend longer on the loo every morning and yes, there WAS a distinct feeling of 'more to be done'. That often meant going back to the loo mid-morning, which was totally abnormal for me. To speed things up I even began taking the occasional Senokot - also highly unusual for me, eating so much fibre. I also had one other symptom, mentioned in lists of symptoms in the USA but not here in the UK, and that was 'pencil stools'.
My doctor said there was nothing to worry about, it was probably my prostate playing up (as it was) and he sent me to a prostate specialist with the request that bowel cancer should also be considered. She merely put her finger up my backside to feel my prostate, and had a look as well, but, again, using only a normal, small, endoscope.
In my innocence, I assumed that that was all they did to check on bowel
cancer, and was happy with the assurance that my mother and grandmother's deaths
had nothing to do with it.
I ought to have insisted on a 'colonoscopy ' - see below - but I had never heard of that. But I HAD heard of barium enemas and X-Rays; why, why didn't I ask for one?
One day, a few months later (by now I was aged 65) I didn't succeed at all on the loo, in spite of having taken some Senokot. Feeling really rotten, I returned early from my morning run. I was sorry I hadn't felt like my normal Saturday morning three miles. By evening I was feeling terrible, and still no success on the loo. Things were at a total standstill. I couldn't even fart!
I was in considerable pain and discomfort all night. On Sunday I went to see the emergency doctor at the local hospital. "Yes," he said, "You are a bit constipated. Take two Senokot tonight and, if that doesn't shift it, take three the following night; that should do the trick!"
Poor fellow, it just goes to prove that you cannot always get it right, not all the time. On Monday morning I went into hospital as an emergency.
That morning was spent having x-rays and other tests.
The surgeon showed me the x-rays, and the blockage looked just like the knot tied in a childrens' balloon; it was obvious why nothing was getting through. I said it was presumably the 'Big C'. Yes, he said, it was, but he had done hundreds of operations like this, he knew exactly what he would find and where, and I was in good hands. It would be a simple plumbing job - remove the affected section of colon and rejoin the two ends.
I don't remember how the rest of the day passed, except that, after the x-rays and a barium enema, I was in a very messy state and went to the loo to clean myself up. But there were no paper towels - only an electric hand drier. Trying to get your bum up to a hand drier on the wall is not easy!
I remember being on a trolley, and being given morphine. I was fitted up with
some very sexy white nylon tights, and told to wiggle my toes as much as I could
in order to reduce the chances of blod-clots. There were lots of forms to sign,
but my wife was allowed to do these for me, and I went to sleep.
It was only several weeks later that I learned what she had been through that day. Whilst I slept, she was asked (by a charming nurse, and with the very best of intentions) whether I had made my will, did I need to see a solicitor? Does he want to see a priest? Do you appreciate that they won't really know what they'll find until they open him up? You must steel yourself to the possibility that he might not come through. When I had asked the surgeon about "the Big C" she hadn't realised what I had meant, and was in no way prepared for all this.
The surgeon was very busy that Monday, but I was tacked onto the end of a long list, and was in the operating theatre that evening for 3 1/2 hours. I came to with two nurses squeezing my chest to get me to cough - it was agony, and I lapsed into unconsciousness again. That was the only pain I experienced in the entire stay in hospital.
I woke up next morning in the High Dependency Unit, with drips and pipes everywhere (including a drainage tube sticking out of my left side) and an oxygen mask strapped to my face like a Spitfire pilot. Every so often a computer beeped as it took my blood pressure and temperature. I frequently fell asleep, but I remembered to wiggle my toes all the time while I was awake. I was worried that the morphine injection only came every six hours, and although I had no pain I was terrified of it so I asked if the frequency could be increased to four-hourly.
I assured the nurse that I had no pain but I was soon put onto a device under my own control that administered a dose of morphine into my drip whenever I wanted, but not more than once every five minutes. It was super - if nurse said they were coming to change my dressings in five minutes, I could probably get two or even three doses before they came. Later that day I was moved to an ordinary ward.
I can honestly say that, apart from a bit of discomfort during the first few days, I had no pain whatsoever and soon was demanding to be allowed to get up.
Hospital soup on the second day, and this plus hospital rice pudding next day onwards, soon got my bowels back in business again. As soon as I was allowed to walk about, I went for long walks round that floor of the hospital. I received nothing but kindness from everyone.
My surgeon popped in to see me most days. In the case of non-emergency surgery the patient is cleaned out internally before the operation. But in my case that had not been possible; because of the obstruction I had three days-worth of food intake in my guts, and bursting to get out. So, I asked him, how they had dealt with the problem, as it presumably all came out the moment he had cut into my colon. The answer was simple (but it cannot have been very pleasant) - they had swilled my insides out with jug after jug of clean water!
I had a zip from my groin up to my diaphragm which, although it did not normally hurt, was unhappy if I coughed and I was not too pleased when they changed the dressings. (A fortnight later, when I was at home, the District Nurse found out why it was so tender - I had a tiny touch of MRSA at the very bottom of the wound, but this soon cleared up.)
Eight days after the op, my surgeon came to see me for a chat, as the path. lab. report had come through. The op counted as 'major plus' but all had gone well. It was called a 'hemicolectomy'. He had taken out some 35cm (14 inches) of colon - that was necessary so that the remaining colon had an effective blood supply on either side of the joint - but the tumour had not attacked other nearby organs and he had encountered no problems. As I was so fit, I could go home next day. If I kept to a sensible diet I would probably have no difficulties. So, I said, as all had gone well and I'm 65 now, I would live to see my 75th birthday, would I?
He actually seemed quite shocked, rather than surprised, at my response, or perhaps its naivety. No, he said, they only measure survival over five years, not ten, in the case of bowel cancers. These are graded on a scale devised in the 1920s, Duke's A, B, C or D, according to how far they have gone.
Duke's 'A' means it is contained within the wall of the gut. 'B' means it has penetrated the gut wall, but not spread elsewhere. Mine was a 'C', but an 'upper C', as it had gone through the gut wall and into the lymph glands nearby, but not too badly - the pathology report showed that only three out of the 16 lymph glands he had removed had been affected.
The lymph glands discharge their contents into the blood supply and, from there, into the liver. The chances were therefore 80% that, if it went anywhere, it would be my liver. It could also spread ("matastecise") into my brain, lungs or bones (usually the spine) but my liver was by far the most likely. If it had already spread elsewhere, I would have plenty of time - probably around six months - to put my affairs in order.
My chances of lasting only five years were just 30%, but this could be increased to between 42% and 48%, say around 45%, with chemotherapy. I had anticipated chemo and was keen to get on with it next day, but he said I should wait a couple of weeks to regain my strength first.
That was it. Ten days ago I had been fit as a fiddle and looking forward to going skiing. But now, here I was, under sentence of death. I might even have no more than six months. How on earth had all this happened?
Busy as she was, the night sister came to see me after settling the other patients down for the night. I had had a bit of a shock, she said, and would I like to talk it through with her? What amazing kindness; how nice to find the caring that some say has now gone out of nursing is still there.
Nevertheless I had a pretty sleepless night, planning my funeral, deciding what each grandchild should get to remember me by, and generally feeling very sorry for myself. However, over the coming months, I came to accept it that I might not see the blossom again, or the autumn colours. I was very lucky - no feeling of anger, 'why me?' or self pity.
Here, too, I was remarkably lucky. I was insured under BUPA and I was able to have my chemotherapy at home. A wonderful team of dedicated nurses turned up, on the dot each time, did their thing, and left me to sleep it off. However, that may not be everyone's cup of tea - some prefer to be in a hospital with a lot of other people in the same boat.
Before my first treatment began the chemo nurse read through a geat long list of all the nasty possible side effects. I was allowed to ask questions before I signed. Yes I said, only just managing to keep a straight face, I'm very worried about my sperm count. For a couple of seconds the chemo nurse thought I was being serious!
But I have to say that chemo was NOT fun! I knew it would not be but, when you consider the alternatives, you go for it! A friend had been down the same road a couple of years before, and warned me what to expect. After each session he used to ring me up to ask how it went, and gave me endless encouragement. This was absolutely invaluable.
My chemo took the tried and tested route, sometimes called the Mayo regime - six sessions at monthly intervals - but not everybody has the same treatment, and new drugs are available which are sometimes used now. Methods of delivery are also often different now, too, sometimes involving Hickman tubes and pumps. Each session consisted of injections each day for five days. This was followed by three weeks 'off'. At the end of the last week 'off' they took a blood sample. If all was still well (mine was always OK but often it is not - the chemicals kill red blood cells and platelets, for example) it all started again on the following Monday.
Each daily 'do' started with finding a place on the back of my hand where they could insert a big needle - a 'canula' - through which the chemicals entered my blood stream. First came an injection of saline solution, then folic acid, then a huge cattle syringe full of '5FU' - aptly named, as F. U. it most certainly did !
The first one, apart from the rather painful insertion of the canula, which got harder and harder as time went by, was not too bad. Whilst this was going on I had to drink iced water, in order to reduce the risk of mouth and throat ulcers, and soon developed an aversion to iced water which, after all this time, is still with me. And I now HATE ice in my whisky!
The 5FU was also kept in the fridge and was therefore very cold. It felt like cold steel going up my arm, through my shoulder, and into my body. I just felt so utterly wretched with it that I then went to sleep for a couple of hours, and spent most of the rest of the day asleep. I had to use a special mouth wash, also to reduce the risk of ulcers, and this made me retch and retch, to the point where I became exhausted with retching and could retch no more, but they found another mouth wash which was not nearly so bad.
I believe that most people experience some degree of nausia, but mine was easily cured with morning sickness pills! Another side effect many people get is insomnia; I just kept tuned to the World Service on the radio and spent the night drifting into and out of sleep.
I was told that everyone is affected differently. I felt a complete wimp. Some people can, and do, continue working normally - I could never have done that - whereas others are, like me, layed low with it.
It was the cumulative effect, like a Chinese water torture, that got through to me. Yes, I'm a tough old nut, but by the end of the week I don't mind admitting that I was often in tears, saying I couldn't take any more, I just felt so totally wretched.
But then Friday came, the week would be behind me, and the thought of three weeks off cheered me up no end. Even by the Saturday morning I was feeling quite different and after a couple of days I was back to normal. But, as the months went by, I was obviously gradually getting weaker and weaker. Each session seemed a bit tougher than the last, and inserting the canula hurt more. Walking even a mile now taxed me considerably, and climbing over a style became difficult, as my joints seemed to have lost their flexibility which never came back.
Even after the chemo was over, it was a good three or four months before I began to feel completely my old self again. Half my hair fell out and blocked the bathroom drain, but after it was all over it came back thicker, darker and much curlier! Another mild symptom still with me is that my skin became sensitised - I burn easily and do not like being in the sun. Again, I was lucky, all the other unpleasant side affects that they warn you about never happened to me.
In my case the effects were largely psychological. Between sessions I walked
quite a bit on my own, trying to keep fit, but didn't want to see anyone or to
meet any of my friends.
However, after my second bout of chemo, I was taken out to lunch - almost forced! - by my tennis friends and found that I enjoyed it. They had kindly chosen a place where the loos were first class, and not more that a few paces from our table - one effect of 5FU is that you can, and do, have the most enormous explosive evacuations, and after only about 10 seconds warning!
Even now, that can still occasionally happen - and sometimes with only the shortest of warnings! - but, if you are planning something, the risk can be reduced by not eating or drinking anything for several hours beforehand. That is why I carry Imodium ** capsules (and, I have to admit, a spare pair of pants!) wherever I go - a small price to pay for living an otherwise normal life.
After my first chemo session, unpleasant though it had been, I went to see the Doctor - I wanted a stronger dose of 5 FU, six days per session instead of five, and 8 months of it rather than six. He explained how chemo works; cancer cells are fast-growing and are at their weakest when they start off. But cancer cells are human cells, like your own. The trick is to kill all new, fast growing cells, good and bad, in the hopes that they'll kill the cancer cells faster than your own ones. (This is why there is a risk of mouth and throat ulcers, for example; the mouth and throat are lined with new, fast-growing cells.) To achieve this they calculate the dose necessary to kill you, according mainly to your body weight, then they back off by no more than 5% ! So extra chemo was NOT a good idea ! The danger is that it might destroy the bone marrow.
I also contacted the well-known charity CancerBackup, as I was anxious to talk to other bowel cancer victims to see if they could offer me any words of comfort. I was given two numbers to ring, both bowel cancer victims. The first was a lady who was in quite a state, saying she had had bowel cancer but was embarking on an Open University degree course and didn't know how long she might have to complete the course, so couldn't possibly find any time for me. The other number rang unobtainable . . . . .
For me, all that was more than ten years ago now. Things have changed. There are many different chemicals and ways of delivering them, and new drugs have arrived since I had my chemotherapy. I understand that 5FU is still said to be the 'gold standard,' but I believe it is often used in conjunction with other chemicals, and treatments seem to be more, but shorter, sessions every fortnight rather than (as in my case) monthly. Those who have their chemo monthly seem to have it for only five months, not six, as the extra month makes no statistical difference. Some victims now even have their chemo in the form of pills. For a full explanation of up-to-the-minute treatments see CancerBackup - chemotherapy
I must have been incredibly lucky. Once over the long-lasting effects of chemotherapy my appetite has been insatiable, I've skied and played tennis (but sadly no longer, as an old knee cartilage operation has at last caught up with me) and eaten and drunk anything I wanted. The only problems (so unimportant that they are not problems at all) is that I may have to poo three or four times a day (nearly always after a meal - like a puppy, I have to be put out on the lawn afterwards!) and I will probably have the runs if I eat an apple or a pear. But nothing that an Imodium ** capsule or two cannot put right. You just get used to planning a long journey to take into account where the useful stopping places are. And I STILL hate touching anything in a cold fridge, or ice in my drink.
** Never buy "Imodium". Ask for "Loperimide" - it's exactly the same stuff, but about half the price !
I was also fortunate, as some people have to have a 'stoma' bag - a plastic bag to collect your poo - but not me. Sometimes these are a permanent feature, but often the surgeons is able to reconnect the colon in a subsequent operation and the stoma is only temporary.
My cancer was quite high up in my colon, so my brilliant surgeon was able to connect all my plumbing up again, and without the need for even a temporary 'stoma'. And I can, and do, eat anything - no problems.
I'm still very much alive and kicking, I published RUM SODOMY AND THE LASH and, at the ripe old age of 70 (over five years ago, now) I decided to take up singing and joined our church choir. I had never sung before, let alone in four-part harmony. I loved it so much that I then joined a local choral society and took up choral singing. I have singing lessons, I sing where and whenever I can (in 2007/08 I sang five Messiahs!) and am trying to learn to read music. I now have seven lovely grandchildren (including two premature identical twins and a beautiful little French grand-daughter) and I enjoy life to the full.
After my bowel cancer, my brother was advised to consult a medical geneticist. He explained that you have to have not one, but two, 'close relatives' who have had bowel cancer before there is any significantly higher risk of having it yourself. 'Close' means parent, brother or sister. Hence, in my case, my mother counted as one, but not my paternal grandmother, as she was too remote, so there had been no need for me to worry.
However, as soon as I had it, my brother now had two relevant relations, so they gave him a colonoscopy and found two polyps, which were removed. But it was before they developed any signs of cancer, so his children are deemed to be at no higher risk than any other member of the population as a whole. For my own children, however, there is a slightly higher risk than the average, so they are advised to have colonoscopies at about ten years younger than the youngest family member to have had bowel cancer; as my mother first had it at age 55, this means at around 45. Oddly, had my brother had his colonoscopy a year or two later, his polyps just might have turned cancerous - only a small percentage do - in which case his children would have had the same degree of risk as mine.
I understand that, since then, research has shown that there is a higher degree of inherited risk than had previously been believed, but it is still only a statistically significant tendency - even with two close relatives who have both been victims, there is only an increased risk of having it yourself; you are still far more likely not to get it.
My routine after-care consisted of a scan of my liver evey six months, as some liver cancers (perhaps one in five) can be operated on. One would normally have had the lungs and other organs scanned as well, but I didn't want to know!
The normal procedure, as bowel cancer usually starts with a polyp, is for patients also to have a 'colonoscopy' every three years. This is the standard investigation, too, for those where bowel cancer is suspected, and some argue that it should also form part of a regular screening process. At the moment it is only routine for those - like my brother, now that I have had it - who have two near relatives who have had bowel cancer and are therefore regarded as being at risk. But a new screening programme is now starting - see below.
The procedure consists of the insertion of a long, flexible tube (a
'colonoscope') up your backside, under sedation using Midazalom, a sedative like the date-rape drug 'Rohypnol' which makes you forget everything, which is as good as an
anaesthetic - you normally feel nothing. The colonoscope is an amazing piece of
equipment, as it can be 'steered' by the surgeon and has a light on the end,
together with a device for removing polyps.
The day before - known as 'potty day' - starts with a dose of special salts called 'Picolax'. When you add the contents of the packet to a tumbler of water it gets quite warm; it is illegal to send the stuff through the post, as it is classed as a firework - presumably in case it explodes!
You take two packets, one in the morning and the other later on, and your diet is severely restricted that day. The Picolax really is amazing stuff - it TOTALLY cleans you out. The instructions on the packet advise that you should stay within reach of a loo. It is said that a lady disregarded this advice and went shopping in a supermarket . . . .
I had my first colonoscopy six months after my op, when a further polyp was removed. My surgeon told me that I had now jumped the first hurdle; many victims fall over before then! The next danger period would be the second and third years, peaking at the end of year two.
I had another colonoscopy three years after the op. and another, six years after. It will then be done every three years; I have just had another - routine - after nine years.
On signing me off, my surgeon said that, after five years, I should probably be safe, and at seven years I can consider myself completely safe, but did I want to continue with the liver scans? No, I said, I'm thoroughly fed up with the whole thing. 'Besides,' I added, 'Something else might get me.' 'No,' he said, 'You are quite wrong on that. Something else most certainly WILL get you.'
I have two comments about colonoscopies and Midazalom and similar drugs. First, although I could remember the actual procedure quite clearly, I entirely failed to remember anything at all about the surgeon coming to see me in the recovery room afterwards - silly, because he came and sat on my bed and told me what he had found, and he had to tell me again next day. I have spoken to several others, who all had the same experience. Secondly, women in particular seem embarrassed by the undeniable urge to fart! I apologised to my surgeon about this, and he replied that worse things had happened to him in his career !
In the UK alone, around 35,000 people are diagnosed with it each year. Alas, around half of them will not live for five years - EARLY DIAGNOSIS SAVES LIVES! Bowel cancer is, after lung cancer, the second biggest cancer killer, but it need not be !
Many die unnecessarily, because they leave it until it is too late. DELAY CAN BE FATAL! I urge anyone with symptoms to consult their doctor, even if, as HRH Prince Charles says, it means talking about "bums and poos" !
Some still find, as I did, that their doctors keep putting off sending them to see a consultant; PROMPT ACTION IS VITAL! Please press your doctor to take action and insist on being sent to see a specialist consultant if no progress is made - again, DELAY CAN BE FATAL!
I am told that some surgeons now offer keyhole surgery. It avoids an enormous 'zip' right up your tummy from groin to diaphragm, and you probably come out of hospital sooner, your recovery will be quicker and there is also probably a smaller risk of infection. But in my case my brilliant surgeon told me he had had all of my insides out on the operating table and checked everything before putting it all back, first removing 16 lymph glands. A friend said his surgeon also had a look at his liver and snipped off a bit that seemed to have been targeted by the cancer before sewing him up again; he's now been signed off. I don't know; would this have been possible with keyhole surgery? If this is a possibility in your case, ask your surgeon.
THE GOOD NEWS ! The good news is that, of all cancers, bowel cancer is probably the most survivable IF caught early.
Screening for breast cancer has been with us for many years. Thanks to the efforts of Lynn and others, the government have now at long last decided a bowel cancer screening project, starting in April 2006, for those over 60. And about time, too!
I have found a very factual site, written by an American colon cancer specialist. He explains about polyps, and how these can turn cancerous. He also goes into the statistics in great detail, but do remember that the statistics in the USA are a little different from ours in the U.K., even though the surgery and chemotherapy are the same in both countries. If you want to see it, CLICK HERE But please think carefully before you do - many people prefer not to know too much about their chances of survival. It's worth remembering that one reason why the statistics are different in the USA (apart from the fact that they keep their statistics differently) is that they are more keen on routine checkups and screening than we are here in the UK; the average cancer is picked up that bit earier, with a correspondingly improved recovery rate.
If the cancer is caught early enough, a new operation means you only have to be in hospital over-night, and most cases can even be treated as day patients but only IF CAUGHT EARLY ENOUGH. Dr Paul Hurlstone, a consultant endoscopist at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield has been pioneering this technique, which uses a colonoscope (see above - 'Colonoscopy') and is carried out with sedation by means of Midazalom (a sedative) and not a full anaesthetic.
I do hope I have dispelled much of the worry suffered by those who have
cancer confirmed and are faced with surgery or chemotherapy.
I myself experienced absolutely no pain, merely modest discomfort after surgery for two or three days, but the chemo was tough going.
It was all worth it. It now seems I may be one of the lucky ones, as I have now been around for nearly nine years. But IF ONLY I had been to see a cancer specialist three or four months earlier!
My cancer had probably doubled in size in the time and, more importantly, it
had progressed through the gut wall and got into my lymph gland system.
Instead, I allowed myself to be fobbed off with other explanations. It was entirely my own fault; I didn't press to see a cancer specialist, even though I knew what the symptons were - and I had them!
At the risk of repeating myself, if you have worrying symptoms you should not be too concerned; only a minority of those having the normal symptoms are diagnosed as having bowel cancer - the majority have something else - but DO PLEASE seek medical advice straight away. Do not waste time worrying !
I hope I may have been of some help to you. Do please feel free to contact me
if I can be of any help to you. And do PLEASE let me know if this web
page has been of any use to you - or, equally, if you found it totally useless !
Here is my e-mail address in a form the 'e-mail crawlers' cannot read: it is simply my two names run together, without any spaces, hyphens, commas or capital letters at hotmail.com
They'll almost certainly not want you as a blood donor, but other body parts seem to be in demand; someone with kidney failure, for example, would prefer to have my elderly kidneys, warts and all, rather than go without!
Please see Macmillan Cancer Support - travel insurance on this.
Cancer victims will have a problem getting insurance, particularly travel insurance - see article in The Times, Tuesday 22 May '07, p.11.
The basic principle with insurance is that, unlike any other type of contract, it is said to be a contract "of the utmost good faith." This means that, unless you tell them EVERYTHING that might possibly be material [or could be, by any stretch of the imagination] you are NOT COVERED!
Recently a man took out holiday insurance. He did not disclose that his father had been to the doctor about the possibility of having an inherited kidney problem - no problem at the moment, but could it ever crop up in the future? The man did not even know that his father had been to the doctor, let alone that there may possibly be an inherited kidney problem in the family. Result? The insurance company refused to pay up when the man himself made a claim - nothing to do with kidneys. [Who was it who said that only a wise a man knows his own father?]
In another case a man insured his wife's life, and they gave full details of her visits to the doctor, but didn't say she'd also been to a birth control clinic to obtain the pill. She died of a heart attack, in no way related to the pill, but the insurers refused to pay up.
So there is no point in keeping quiet. The first thing they do, if you are unlucky enough to have to make a claim, is to ask for a list of the times you have been to your doctor, and why. They then cross-check, and ask the doctor to say what the visits were about. They keep the premiums you have been paying for the last umpteen years, but cancel the policy.
My advice is therefore to tell the insurance company, and don't try to conceal it. If it's an existing policy that they cannot cancel, you're OK. If it's a new policy or the sort they could decline to renew at the next policy renewal date, then there'd be no point in keeping quiet; they'd merely refuse to pay on your claim, and no return of premiums paid.
I'm afraid you'll find holiday insurance a problem from now on. I used to go skiing and needed not only medical cover against being taken ill - I also needed cover against breaking a leg (nothing to do with cancer) and against claims resulting from an accident - if I'd put a ski stick through someone's eye, for example. I was lucky with Barclays insurance - I told them I'd had bowel cancer, and they renewed straight away, but with a clause in the insurance policy saying 'bowel cancer excluded'. So I was fully covered against accidents, lost luggage, missed flights etc. But if I hadn't told them, and broke a leg skiing, for example, then they'd refuse to pay.
"HMS la Minerve off Toulon"
An exciting new book on life on the lower deck in Nelson's Navy. Its intriguing title is based on the famous quotation, attributed to Sir Winston Churchill, about the value of naval tradition.
It tells the true story of Samuel Blackmore, a lower deck sailor in Nelson's Navy from 1793 to 1802. During that time he was involved in many engagements with the enemy, and was awarded the Naval General Service Medal with three bars to commemorate the principal actions he was involved in. He was taken prisoner three times, actually served directly under Nelson, who used Samuel's frigate HMS la Minerve (seen here on the right) as his flagship for three months, and became her coxswain.
The picture - a miniature by Commander Geoff Hunt RN - is reproduced here and in the book (in colour) by kind permission of the artist who is himself a cancer victim.
This book will appeal to all who love the Patrick O'Brian, Alexander Kent and Hornblower books, Nelson fans and students of naval history.
A victim of bowel cancer (and, luckily, a survivor) myself, I am selling the book on behalf of LYNN'S BOWEL CANCER CAMPAIGN (charity number 1099455) set up by my fellow bowel cancer victim, the former BBC Watchdog presenter, Lynn Faulds Wood, who now appears on GMTV. I paid ALL production and printing costs myself, so the ENTIRE sale proceeds , not just any profits, go to Lynn's charity.
ANOTHER REPRINT will arrive in time for Christmas 2009
For full details, a summary of the book, reviews and how to buy it, please click here to go to my "RUM SODOMY AND THE LASH" web site.
So far about £7,000 has been raised by sales of the book, and it has been extremely well reviewed. It only costs £9.99 (£12.50 inc. p&p in the UK) and forms an ideal present for all those people such as uncles, fathers, Godsons etc who are so hard to chose a present for.
If you are still worried you should also visit BEATING BOWEL CANCER (charity number 1063614) which was also set up by Lynn, before she moved on to her new venture.
Thank you for visiting this site.