Sheffield Mum speaks out about her fight with bowel cancer to raise awareness for the disease

April is bowel cancer awareness month and a Sheffield mum-of-two wants to share her story to get more people talking about it.

Wednesday, 11th April 2018, 9:57 am
Updated Wednesday, 11th April 2018, 10:36 am
Rachel Harris is currently undergoing treatment for bowel cancer, and wants to raise awareness for the disease (Picture: Andrew Roe)

Rachel Harris, 39 from Dore, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in September 2017 and is undergoing chemotherapy at the moment for the disease.

After presenting symptoms such as tiredness and sensitivity to certain foods, she passed it off as anaemia but after a visit to her GP and numerous tests later she was sent for a colonoscopy which did in fact reveal the cancer.

Rachel and her husband Matt with their children William, 6 and Emma, 3 (Picture: Andrew Roe)

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The busy mum of two was juggling home life with her young children William, 6 and Emma, 3 and working as a Year 5 teacher at Netheredge primary school at the time of her diagnosis.

She says her that was when her 'world came crashing down.'

More scans then revealed that the cancer had spread to her liver and lymph nodes, and she was initially told that she was inoperable.

At that stage, Rachel and her husband Matt, 38 chose not to learn her prognosis or staging of the cancer, instead focusing on getting better.

Rachel and her husband Matt with their children William, 6 and Emma, 3 (Picture: Andrew Roe)

Speaking of their positive mental attitude she said: "We have this equation between us - unwavering faith and extraordinary effort equals miracles. So that's what we live by."

"We know I will get better, but we aren't complacent about it. We know we have to put an awful lot of effort into it. We feel incredibly lucky that just 10 minutes down the road we've got one of the best cancer hospitals in the country and we've got one of the best bowel surgeons working with us."

"Ultimately we walk out those appointments and we've got a choice. We either go home and feel sorry for ourselves and eat loads of chocolate and wait to get better or we can go right what else can we do?"

Matt added: "It's been very hard but nobody gets better from being negative."

Luckily, the family have since received some better news.

After a 12 week session of chemotherapy they were told at the end of January this year that the tumours in the bowel and lymph nodes had shrunk so the bowel cancer in the liver was operable.

Rachel is currently under Weston Park in Sheffield for her treatment, but couldn't thank them enough for everything they've done so far saying that the diagnosis of cancer needn't be scary.

She said: "We sat outside Weston Park and sobbed saying I can't believe I'm here. But once you're in it's absolutely fine. If you are diagnosed with something and if you get it soon enough things are treatable and actually Weston Park is not a scary place it's actually really positive."

"Weston Park is just the most amazing place. I've got an amazing oncologist, I've got an amazing surgeon and they are surrounded by a great team of people."

With the average age of bowel cancer at 65, Rachel wants to raise awareness of symptoms and share her journey to coincide with bowel cancer awareness month.

She spoke on Facebook about her story in a bid to make others think.

"I didn't intend for it to be shared so much but if it just helps one person then that's great isn't it.

"Especially with it being bowel cancer it can be embarrassing, but people don't want to ask what are your symptoms but it's a good opportunity to talk about it.

"For me it was just about putting the message out there to my friends and family saying these are the symptoms, that I had, if you ever have similar symptoms don't hesitate in going to your doctor. The chances are it won't be anything because it is rare. It's about being aware of your body."

The family have had great support from family and friends and are looking forward to the future.

Her husband Matt, 38 said: "She won't admit it but she's been amazing through it all."

"We've both said that when we get through this, it will be the best thing that has ever happened to us."

Rachel is facing more scans to look at the next step regarding the bowel cancer in her liver, but remains in high spirits despite everything.

"I just wish I’d have been more aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer to have been in a position to challenge the doctors and insist on being investigated sooner."