A man who is battling bowel cancer has bravely spoken out about his condition to raise awareness of the disease. Merfyn Jones, 62, from Beaumaris, was diagnosed with bowel cancer following a colonoscopy at Ysbyty Gwynedd in October 2017 and was rushed in for emergency surgery four days later.
Mr Jones, who is the founder of the popular Beaumaris Food Festival, said he was shocked to discover he had the disease. He said: “I started getting stomach aches, which was very unusual for me as I am a vegetarian so my stomach is always pretty good.
“They started getting gradually worse and worse and I’d started to suffer with constipation so I felt I had to go to see my GP.
“I was referred to Ysbyty Gwynedd and they carried out a colonoscopy. Following the procedure they kept me back and I was shocked to be told they had found a tumour and it had to be operated on very quickly.”
Mr Jones then returned to Ysbyty Gwynedd four days later for emergency surgery to remove the tumour.
“It was extremely dangerous where the tumour was and if it had been left any longer it could have caused very serious problems, so the operation saved my life,” added Mr Jones.
Unfortunately the stage of Mr Jones’ cancer means that he needs further treatment.
He is currently under the care of Locum Consultant in Medical Oncology, Dr Claire Fuller, and is undergoing chemotherapy on Alaw Ward.
Dr Fuller said: “Bowel Cancer is a relatively common disease, it is the fourth most common type of cancer in men and women throughout Wales with just over 2,000 patients diagnosed with the disease.
“People may present with vague symptoms – such as bleeding from the back passage, blood in the pan or on the toilet paper, or there is sometimes a change in the bowel pattern such as going to the toilet more frequently or having looser motions. The opposite of this can be constipation or a mixture of the two symptoms.
“Bowel Cancer is more common in the older population but you can see it at any age. What’s important to remember is that Bowel Cancer is most certainly treatable, the earlier the cancer is found the more treatable it can be and the more chance you can be cured.
“For those between 60 – 74 years of age it is important to take up the bowel screening test – if there is cancer there you can pick it up an early stage where it is much more curable and you can also pick up polyps and remove them before they develop into cancer.
“I cannot stress the importance that if you suffer any symptoms which could be signs of bowel cancer to go and see your GP, it’s vital to get yourself checked so if there is something wrong it can be treated early.”
Mr Jones, who is supporting Bowel Cancer Awareness Month during April, hopes his story will encourage others to be aware of the signs of the disease.
“I can’t remember the last time I went to the doctors, I’ve never taken any tablets for anything, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and I’m also very active so I would never have thought this could happen to me.
“It was an odd feeling when I was diagnosed, I was scared but my thoughts went more to my family than myself. I’m taking each day as it comes and currently half way through my chemotherapy so we’re now just hoping for a positive outcome.
“The care I’ve received at Ysbyty Gwynedd has been unbelievable – I have never known people with such dedication to their work – they go above and beyond in their job.
“I hope by sharing my story that it will make others more aware of changes in their body – a stomach ache for me was strange, it was the type which wouldn’t go away so I knew something was wrong – you can’t ignore these things, you need to go to the GP and get it sorted.”
According to Bowel Cancer UK the disease is the fourth most common cancer and the second biggest cancer killer in Wales. Every year more than 2,200 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer and over 900 people die from the disease.
For more information visit https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/
For more information on Bowel Screening visit www.bowelscreening.wales.nhs.uk
Photo: Merfyn Jones, 62, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer with his Oncologist, Claire Fuller, on Alaw Unit.