A care practitioner who has battled bowel has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the disease.
Mum-of-one Danielle Davies, 22,who works at Pendine Park’s Penybryn care home in Wrexham, is warning other young people with unexplained abdominal aches and pains to get things checked out and never take no for an answer.
The illness was diagnosed last August – but Danielle knew she had a problem some months before that.
An emergency operation to remove tumours from her bowel was followed by a gruelling 12 weeks of chemotherapy.
She said: “I was out with friends in the January of last year and had a dull ache in my side which did not go away, eventually I went to my GP who prescribed iron tablets as he thought I was anaemic.
“The problem was the pain just didn’t go away. It was just there, a constant dull nagging pain.
“I was a lover of fast food but eating a take-away meal often left me feeling really ill and in pain and at one point she could not get out of bed for a week.
“At this point I went back to the GP and it was suggested gall stones could be an issue. I was sent for a scan but that ruled gall stones out.
“The pain just got worse and I ended up back and forth to A&E at the Maelor Hospital. I’d been a few times but they could never find anything. But I went with my mum who explained I had a family history of bowel cancer.
“My great grandmother and grandfather both died from bowel cancer and I also had an uncle and cousin who had it too. As a result, I was sent for a colonoscopy examination which is basically where they put a camera up your back passage.
“They couldn’t get the camera all the way around and thought it was maybe a polyp. But I just knew I had cancer even though they thought I was too young. Apparently, bowel cancer is pretty uncommon in someone of my age.
“I was sent for a CT scan. Afterwards they called me in and sat down and told me that basically my bowel was rotten although they still weren’t sure of the cause. They said I would need my bowel removing and I’d have to have a colostomy type bag.”
She added: “I was sent away to wait and they told me anymore pain I should go straight to A &E. The pain did come back really badly and I went in at the end of July. On August 1st last year I had an operation to remove half of my bowel.
“I also had some of my eggs removed and frozen as they told me it was unlikely I would be able to have any more children naturally.
“I had a lump the size of a plum removed and a few days later they called me back and told me I had stage three bowel cancer. I then had 12 weeks of chemotherapy but luckily didn’t lose my hair.
“But the chemo was the hardest thing I have ever done. It was horrible. I remember going to the Shooting Star Unit at the Wrexham Mealor and just crying begging them not to do it.”
“I couldn’t look after my daughter Lillian who is three. I had to rely on my partner for help but I’m really independent. Luckily, I had my grandmother, Emma, to help me and she would look after Lillian for days at a time while I couldn’t get out of bed.
“The worse thing about the chemo was I couldn’t drink cold drinks, it felt like I was drinking glass and if I cried it was so painful. But I always knew there were people worse off than me.
“I also did a Race for Life event at Reaseheath College near Crewe after my operation and before I started the chemo. It was hard and I can’t say I ran it I had to walk but raised almost £400 for cancer research and that was just off family, friends and work colleagues.
“I did quite a bit with the Teenage Cancer Trust. I went on nights out with other young cancer sufferers, cinema and restaurant trips things like that.
“And I also look at some of the residents at Penybryn, which is a centre of excellence for younger people with neurological problems caused by acquired brain injury.
“I’m far better off than some of those I have the pleasure of looking after; some residents here have complex brain injuries and need round the clock care.”
Danielle says she now wants to warn other young people that they should get any aches or pains treated as soon as possible and not to take no for an answer.
She said: “I had so many trips to the GP and hospital I lost count. The issue was they just didn’t think someone my age would get bowel cancer. But I just knew especially when I thought about my family history.
“It’s just worth getting everything checked. I think it’s better to be safe than sorry now. I’m just glad it’s worked out and although I’ve had the all clear I’m still having a few issues investigated.
“I’m also back doing my university course at Wrexham Glyndwr; I’m doing a health and wellbeing degree. I’m just concentrating on my daughter Lillian and making sure we are OK.”
She added: “Tracey Cuthill, the manager at Penybryn, and all the staff have been fantastic. I enjoy working at Pendine Park and love working with the residents, especially those that are badly disabled and have complex issues due to their brain injuries.
“I’m also being tested for Lynch Syndrome which could give me a higher risk of colon and other cancers. But hopefully that will be clear. You just have to carry on and I have Lillian to think of too.”
Penybryn manager Tracey Cuthill said: “She’s an excellent care practitioner who has a really good rapport with residents.
“It must have been a terrible shock to be diagnosed with bowel cancer at such a young age and to have to undergo surgery and chemotherapy can’t have been easy.
“I think Danielle is quite right in warning other young people to get any pains checked out and to ensure you are happy with the answers.
“Had Danielle’s bowel cancer not been diagnosed when it was, I’m sure the outcome would not have been as positive as it is. I know I speak for all the staff when I say we wish Danielle well for the future and hope she remains in good health.”