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Interview 04

Age at interview: 67
Brief Outline: Screened in 2002, when aged 63, Faecal Occult Blood (FOB) test normal. Screened again in 2005, the result was unclear, so the test was repeated twice, with normal results.
Background: A white British woman, a retired teacher, widow with 3 children.

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She was invited to be screened for bowel cancer in 2002, when aged 63. The Faecal Occult Blood (FOB) test result was normal. In 2005 she was invited for screening again. This time the result was unclear, so she was asked to repeat the test twice. The results of the final two tests were normal.

 
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She caught her motion with toilet paper and then with the cardboard stick spread samples onto the...

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Well I put the card, is that what you call that [laughs], on the floor in front of me, with the first flap open, so that it revealed the two little circles. And then I managed to catch part of the motion on a piece of toilet paper and then used the stick to take a little sample of this and spread it thinly onto the first circle. And then I used a piece of toilet paper to hold that end where the motion had been on the stick and used the other end then to just pick up another small piece on the stick from a different part of that motion and then smeared that onto the second circle and then closed the flap. And then you have to write the date on of what, of when you did that first test. And I actually did them over three days so that, I didn't know whether that was what you had to do or just three different motions but at least I was at home, it was first thing in the morning and then, because if you're out you can't really take the kit [laughs]. So I found it easier to do it over the three days.

And then you post it on?

And then you post it on, put it back it back in the envelope and seal it, pop it into the post box.

 
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When she received an unclear result she felt anxious but at the same time was a bit reassured to...

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So can you say how you felt then when you got that [unclear] result?

Well again my tummy did a leap and you go through, your mind works like, 'What if?' And I thought, well I won't tell my family. I think I wished my husband was here.

Yes.

And then, then you go deeper into it and think how will I be if I have got bowel cancer, because being secretary of the support group for so long, I've realised that people expect those who are going through cancer to be very brave and very positive and I thought I don't think I could be like that. I really admire those people but there are times when you just want to feel, 'Help' [laughs] and I was really worried about how I would react if, if it all came back as positive [abnormal]. But then I thought, 'Now I mustn't go down that line because this is only a test', and it did say on the letter, 'This does not mean that you have bowel cancer.' And I think I was a bit reassured by that, I thought, 'Well, there's hundreds of things it could be, without going down that road.' So, but again I decided not to tell the family until I knew you know what was what really.

I think that's very interesting and perhaps a very normal reaction possibly that you said you might want to cry for help rather than put on this positive face, is that what you said?

Yes, yes I think so because I don't think I'm that brave [laughs] in the normal run of things and being on your own as well, it always goes through your mind that how would I cope if I had something like that.

What makes you think that other people expect you to be very positive and brave?

Because that's how it seems to be with cancer. I often think you know people are putting on this, this brave act and inside they're probably shouting, 'Help, you know I'm going through this and I don't want to,' and sort of screaming out for sympathy. And I, I always think that cancer is the sort of illness that isn't classed as an illness if you know what I mean, that if you've got flu people will say, 'Oh really sorry you've got flu and I hope it will soon be better,' but often it's other people's attitudes that they don't know quite how to cope with you if you have cancer.

Did that affect whether or not you decided to do the next test?

No, no I thought I've got to, I've got to do it, because there's a chance that it might not be and you know you just have to go through that bit.

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