Jamie Ryan, 33, got in touch with us on #WorldMentalHealthAwarenessDay to say thank you to the Dimbleby Cancer Care team at Guy’s and St Thomas’ who have helped him during his recovery. Here he shares his story.
“I had been ignoring the symptoms for ages, probably a couple of years, but they were pretty persistent. Blood in my stool became heavier until it was soaking through the paper; I’d lose my breath going up a couple of flights of stairs; I became the first man ever to return from his first trip to India constipated.
Stomach bugs became more frequent and then finally stomach cramps that felt like someone was twisting a knife into my navel for hours on end. One day I saw a photo of myself and realised my clothes were hanging off me. I explained it all away, convinced myself that the blood was obviously haemorrhoids, I was losing my breath because I hadn’t exercised since I was 17 and despite not changing my diet for the past five years, I had lost a stone and a half, well, just because I’m a lucky guy.
But then I had a recurrence of the invisible man twisting his knife into my stomach and my girlfriend made me visit the GP, who sent me to A&E, who sent me back to the GP. Anaemia. Colonoscopy, gastroscopy, and finally a CT scan.
I was 33 years old and I felt like my body was falling apart. I was scared out of my wits. Then they told me: stage two bowel cancer. In three weeks time a surgeon would cut out two thirds of my colon. I felt something not far away from joy, which was strange. I knew why I’d felt so wretched, I knew what the solution was – I’d have the thing out and I’d either need chemo, or I wouldn’t. Life is so simple.
Not quite. There was a moment, just before they administered the general anaesthetic, when I was lying on a trolly in an ante-room and I first felt so utterly alone. It doesn’t matter how many friends or family members are with you, or how fantastic they are at listening to you; the only person who has to go through those doors is you. And so the big, tough 33 year old superman turns out to be a vulnerable, scared, lonely and confused mortal. He cries. He thinks he could die. He feels alienated from his girlfriend, his friends and his family, because they could never understand what he’s going through. Who the hell is this guy?
That was me, after a pretty gruesome two weeks in St. Thomas’s, where I recovered and thankfully didn’t require chemotherapy. But I did need help, which I received from a totally amazing psychologist at Dimbleby Cancer Care, who listened and guided, and helped me realise it’s perfectly normal to feel vulnerable and scared.
I can honestly say that has changed my life.”
To find out about support services in your area, go to Cancer Care Map and type in your postcode.