St Albans bowel cancer survivor does her bit to raise awareness

THE ordeal of a St Albans woman is being highlighted as part of a new campaign to raise awareness of bowel cancer.

Several years ago, Helen Bond, 54, just happened to mention to her GP on a visit about another matter that she had seen blood in her faeces for the previous few weeks.

She said: “I’d thought nothing of it really. The doctor did an internal examination and although it was inconclusive decided to refer me to a specialist unit just to have everything checked out properly.”

Helen went along to a clinic in Watford a couple of weeks later and after a colonoscopy, CT and MRI scan, she was diagnosed with a tumour in her rectum which was later found to be already quite advanced.

Said Helen: “It was a complete bombshell. I never thought it would happen to me.”

She had an operation to remove the tumour and surrounding lymph nodes to prevent the cancer spreading and had a temporary ileostomy constructed before starting a six month course of chemotherapy.

Helen went on: “I can’t praise the surgeon and her team highly enough, she was fantastic as were the oncology team at Mount Vernon Hospital where I went for my chemo.

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“They were all so caring and thoughtful and took so much trouble to explain what was going on. I work for the NHS but even so it can be a very scary time, for you and your family.”

Throughout it all, Helen was supported by husband Kevin, her son Dominic, 28, and daughter, Hannah 25. She was also able to continue to work whenever she could. In July 2007 she was given the all clear and all the scans since have been clear too.

Describing herself as “incredibly lucky“, she said the visit to her GP had literally saved her life and she advised anyone who saw blood in their poo not to ignore it.

“Don’t put it off, don’t feel embarrassed,” she said. “My friend’s husband wasn’t so lucky. We were diagnosed at around the same time but unfortunately his was not diagnosed as quickly and he died last year.”

Helen’s husband has now taken up running half marathons to raise money for bowel cancer research and her daughter Hannah ran in last year’s Race for Life in St Albans.

Her friend Caroline Bolan, whose husband died, is now a tireless fundraiser – all 150 tickets for her Valentine’s Ball next Friday have already sold out.

The Be Clear on Cancer campaign to raise awareness of bowel cancer follows a pilot scheme in the East of England and South West last January.

In both regions as a result more people went to see their GP with bowel cancer symptoms with a nearly 50 per cent increase in people over the age of 50 presenting with the symptoms used in the campaign.

More than 90 per cent of people diagnosed with bowel cancer at any early stage survive for at least five years compared with only six per cent of those diagnosed at a late stage.

For further information about the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer visit