Before being diagnosed with his own bowel cancer in 2021, 72 year old Frank had already, through his family, gained more than his fair share of cancer experience.
Frank is the main carer for his non-smoking partner, diagnosed in 2013 with stage 4 lung cancer and given just ten months to live. Thanks to medical advances though she is very much alive today.
In 2019, Frank’s then two-year old granddaughter was diagnosed with advanced neuroblastoma. A cancer that most commonly affects children age five or younger. She remains very poorly and is currently receiving hospice care.
“In late 2020 I suspected I had blood in my stools. But I didn’t want to worry my family, so I said nothing. They had enough on their plates. Plus I thought I couldn’t be that unlucky.
“Besides, COVID was rife and we were being very careful. I wanted to avoid what might prove to be an unnecessary visit to hospital.
“But in early January 2021 I did eventually tell my partner. She persuaded me to contact my GP. After a lengthy exchange of emails he sent me for a colonoscopy, which I received on 31 January.
“I thought what am I doing here? I’m wasting everyone’s time and I’ll probably end up catching COVID.
“However, they found a tumour and by mid-March I was in hospital having surgery.
“Luckily, I avoided a stoma bag and was out of hospital in a week. But a biopsy revealed that the cancer had spread to nearby lymph nodes and I needed chemotherapy.
“Treatment took place between May and August. I found it tough and my partner, who nursed me through it, found it hard, too.
“After chemo, a further colonoscopy and CT scan showed no further evidence of the cancer. Touch wood, I remain cancer free today.
“Since then I have slowly built up my fitness and strength, and feel mighty relieved that I took the action I did back in 2021.
On a visit to a local hospice Frank learnt about Cancer Support UK’s Cancer Coach programme.
“I explained to someone that I was still facing worries about the future and she suggested I got in touch with Cancer Support UK. I was offered a course lasting six weeks, which started in February 2022.
“The course was extremely beneficial. The course leader explained a variety of useful strategies, which I could adopt in a practical way to help me move forwards.
“The group I joined was for men only. It was helpful to discover that my post cancer worries were experienced by other men. None of us were alone in our fears.
“So today, although I have two very close family members who are still dealing with cancer every day, I feel I am lucky and I hope to remain cancer free into the future.”
Cancer Support UK’s Cancer Coach support groups are for people who have finished their cancer treatment and need someone to speak to about their experience. The emphasis is very much on providing practical and emotional support in a safe space and connecting with others who have been through cancer. We provide techniques that people can take away and try for themselves. The groups are split into weekly sessions held over six weeks and are carried out free of charge by video call or telephone. Each group is facilitated by a Cancer Coach, who introduces the group, offers support and structures the conversation.
Cancer Coach is for anyone over the age of 18 who has completed treatment for cancer, regardless of whether they finished treatment a few months ago or a few years ago. You can apply to join online or, if you have any questions, please email email@example.com or call: 020 3983 7616.