Interview 35

Age at interview: 68
Brief Outline: Screened in 2003, with a normal result. In 2005 another Faecal Occult Blood (FOB) test was abnormal. She had a colonoscopy, during which a small polyp was removed. This was followed by surgery to remove a larger cancerous polyp.
Background: A white British woman, a part time invigilator, divorced with 2 children.

More about me...

She was invited to be screened for bowel cancer in 2003, as part of the UK pilot study. The result of the Faecal Occult Blood (FOB) test was normal. In 2005 she was invited to be screened again. This time the result of the Faecal Occult Blood test was abnormal, so she had a colonoscopy, during which a small polyp was removed. The doctor decided that surgery was needed to remove a larger 'suspicious' looking polyp. In August 2005 the larger polyp and a small part of her bowel was removed. Just before this operation she had a scan, which revealed that she also had a problem with her liver. The doctors thought this might be another cancer, a metastasis. In December 2005 she went to France so that she could have a third of her liver removed via key-hole surgery. She made a quick recovery from that operation, and then had chemotherapy (once a month) between February 2006 and June 2006. Since then she has felt very well. She has had regular check-ups, including a colonoscopy and liver scans in France, and will soon start having regular check-ups in England instead. 


Her father had died of bowel cancer. She thought it would be silly if she didn't let herself be...

Did you know much about bowel cancer before all this started?

No it's only, when I took the test actually because I reflected on my father because you know it's forty years ago and I started thinking about it and what he told me and I thought well I haven't got any of those symptoms. But.

Can you remember what the symptoms are?

Yes, yes you know that he had blood when he went to the toilet and you know he had pain in his bowels and you know he generally, you know he was really rather ill before he died. And I thought well I'm, I don't feel like that, I feel fine you know I'm sort of bubbling and you know fine. So I didn't relate it to me really but it was the, like just the thing I thought no I'll, I'll do this the first time because I thought well I'll just, you know you never know.


And I'm so grateful I did [laughs].

And what convinced you to do the second one when you were a bit doubtful about doing it again?

Well I thought it was a very good scheme and I thought it was churlish of me not to take part in it because it was so good you know looking after your health really you know without, and being invited to look after your health, I just felt well I, it's a bit churlish of me you know and silly you know.

Well that's interesting that you use the word 'churlish'. Does that mean you thought you were; can you explain why you use that word 'churlish'?

Well I think, well you know to have the opportunity to have this test without even having to think about it really and all for free and I mean that would have been rather silly of me not to take the opportunity.


She thought the hospital was unhygienic and the nursing care on the ward was poor.

So the nursing was mainly changing the dressing every day was it?

Yes yeah and the other thing was, I thought was a bit odd was the; you know I mean really I think it was only two days after the operation that they actually washed you down and things. After that you were just left with a bowl and the soap to do it yourself. Which was a bit much after two days after having a big operation. I thought that was very bad.

How soon could you get out of bed?

Oh I think I got out of bed within two days yeah.

And how soon could you go and have a shower etc?

Oh well that was, as I say it was just this bowl of water appearing and that went on for about a week. That was very bad, very bad. And well as I'm saying it, I mean I wasn't going to bring this up but they, you had to have, obviously give a specimen of water, I suppose they were testing to see if there was blood in it or something and I said, 'Where shall I put this?' and they said, 'Put it into the,' where the toilet was. Well there's a largish toilet with a wash basin in and you used to have to clean your teeth in there, which again I thought was terribly unhygienic and wash yourself down as best you could. And there were two or three bowls with urine samples in and they were there for three days. And one of them was very bloodied, fortunately it wasn't mine, it was another lady in the ward. And we all complained to the nurse we said, 'You know those are not, what's the point of giving urine samples, I mean they've been there three days?'

And of course the smell and everything it was disgusting. And I actually did say to one nurse you know those samples have been in there three days,' she said, 'Oh I'll see that they're cleared away.' But they weren't.

So it was quite unpleasant?

Very unpleasant, very unpleasant.


Her nurse stayed with her throughout the procedure. She liked seeing the inside of her bowel on...

Yes, yes well when I walked into the room where they did the, I wouldn't have called it a theatre so much, and I was introduced to this nurse and she said, 'I'm going to hold your hand through the whole procedure and if you have any discomfort squeeze my hand.' So I said, 'Okay.' And of course you couldn't see what was going on but I didn't feel any discomfort at all, no pain at all. But the nurse did give me a sedative before I went in and I was very relaxed. I watched it on the screen, which was quite interesting; you don't get the opportunity to see your insides very often [laughs].

Can you describe that?

Yes I just saw a probe and I asked certain questions like, 'What is that?' and you know 'what's happening there?' And they described to me exactly what was happening and you know really, and then I must have gone quiet because I know, the doctor said to the nurse, 'Has she gone to sleep?' [laughs]. She said, 'No she's watching the television screen, or the monitor,' so.

Did you see them removing the polyp?

Yes I did.


Before she went home the doctor told her that she had a suspicious looking polyp and that she...

And the doctor said to me right away, whilst I was there, before I came away, he said, 'Well there are, there's one which is a polyp,' he said, 'which is small and it's nothing so that's been taken away but,' he said, 'the other one I dare not touch it because,' he said, 'it's too, a bit larger and it looks a bit suspicious,' very suspicious actually he said. So he made an appointment for me to see a surgeon and who explained the whole thing to me and he said that they did think it was cancerous. I immediately flew into a panic [laughs] because you know I'd just couldn't imagine that I would have cancer. I'm very healthy, I'm fit, you know I just couldn't believe it. Anyway I went into the doctor, into the hospital, they arranged very quickly for me to have an operation, within a matter of ten days I think and I had it removed very successfully. And I was lucky that I caught it so early because they said it was a Class A Dukes which I didn't know what that was then but they explained to me that it was only just turning [malignant].


The specialist cancer nurse provided excellent continuity of care. She visited her in hospital...

And then would you mind saying a little bit more about what happened when you went into the hospital to have the operation?

Well that was very good. Again they had a group of nurses I think they were, three or four nurses who are cancer nurses and one nurse was in there when I went to see the surgeon and I saw her all the way through and she came to visit me in the hospital. That was a very good service and I got to know her personally and so I felt I could ask her anything. And she actually came into the hospital when I was going to have the operation to mark me where they were going to do the operation and so that was a good contact for me as well, a good support, yeah. And I saw her after the operation and I saw her when I went to see the surgeon again after the operation for him to give me the results.

So really good continuity?

Very good continuity and they sent me a letter where if I wanted to contact them at any time then I could. And so, and she was always there when I went to see, I went to the surgeon two or three times after the operation to see him and to be checked on and she was always there. Always the same nurse which was very good for me, good support yeah. 


The operation went well, but being in hospital was not pleasant and nursing care was inadequate.

Could you say a little bit about what happened on the day of the operation please?

Oh well I'd been admitted to the hospital the day before and on the morning of the operation I was due to go to surgery at 12.30 and had a shower and had a pre-med and put quite trendy white woolly socks on [laughs] and loaded up and went down. Well before I went for the operation actually I had a scan on the morning, morning of the operation I had a scan which is when they discovered the liver thing. And but then they just took me down to the operating theatre, half past 12 and really I don't remember anything else until possibly late that evening. And my daughter was there waiting for me to come out of the operating theatre apparently, and I'd had the operation, I'd gone into intensive care immediately afterwards and but then I was back on the ward that evening. I'd had the operation at half past 12 and I was on the ward that evening. And I have to say I didn't have any pains at all and; it wasn't very pleasant the sight of the scar but other than that there was nothing.

Where was the scar exactly?

Down the middle of my tummy, yeah.

How long did you have to stay in hospital?

Ten days, I was in hospital ten days and, until my bowels were functioning normally again and then I came out, ten days.

So can you explain a bit what it was like during those ten days, what happened exactly?

Well [laughs] it wasn't a pleasant experience I have to tell you that, I mean whether you use this or not I don't know but it was not a pleasant experience. The hospital was particularly filthy and the, the nursing was very minimum in the fact that I think I only saw two nurses as such, they were nearly all auxiliaries. And that was not a pleasant experience no, I wouldn't, I did not enjoy that. I'd have thought if I'd have had; I tried my very hardest to make light of it but it wasn't good, it wasn't good, no the hospital was bad, very bad. And funnily enough after, you know only back about ten days and they wrote me a letter to ask me what I thought of the you know hospital and the treatment and whatever so I was able to write back and tell them exactly you know what I thought and the areas of cleanliness and etc was just terrible, terrible.

And not enough nursing care you said?

No, no. They had auxiliaries taking blood tests and stuff and I didn't think that was right, I didn't think that was right. But I'd put that all to the hospital.

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