In November 2020 Carolann Johnston was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer. This is her story.
I had always been a very outgoing and charismatic person who doesn’t like to dwell on the negatives and take each day as it comes. I enjoy going out for meals or shopping with my friends and enjoy doing things with family such as taking my grandchildren for a day out.
In the last week of November, after having just finished a nightshift at work, I went numb all down my left side. I went straight to the accident and emergency Hospital in Paisley were they took bloods that showed I was clear of any signs of a stroke. I went home that morning from the hospital and later in the day received a phone call from one of the nurses that was involved in my care at the A&E Department who asked if I would be willing to go for a Colonoscopy. I said yes thinking that this would be a routine check-up following my return home.
I attended for my colonoscopy and was informed that I had a large polyp and that I needed surgery for this to be removed. They retrieved a biopsy and a week and a half later I received a phone call from my GP asking me to attend the surgery and to bring someone with me. At that point I knew what she was going to tell me, and I said I would like to be told over the phone as I knew it was going to be bad news. My GP said I had a tumour in my colon and that a surgeon would call me from the R.A.H with more details regarding my surgery. I had to get my mother and sister to speak to the GP on the phone, as I was crying and finding it too difficult to take in what she was saying to me.
Five weeks before I was diagnosed with cancer I had actually done a Bowel Screening Test that came back as all clear. So when I got told I had a tumour it was like a black wall in front of me. The worse thing was telling my friends, family and my husband. Although they were a great support and allowed me to stay positive and hopeful throughout my treatment.
The surgeon called and told me that my tumour was 4cm, and that he believed he could remove this. He also said that following the surgery I may have a temporary colostomy bag and another bag for drainage.
I went in for surgery on the 15th of January 2021 and I was in hospital for a week. I was lucky that I didn’t need a colostomy bag following the surgery, however, I did require the drainage bag, as well as 48 clips in my stomach and six weeks of chemotherapy.
I felt the chemotherapy was very aggressive. I managed to complete four of my six week treatment before I had to stop due to the side effects I was experiencing. It affected my mental health not being able to do things for myself, like having to stop going to work and not being able to go out and enjoy myself with friends and family due to feeling to weak. Furthermore, the pandemic and lockdown was beginning around this time making things more difficult and giving me more anxiety surrounding socialising while my immune system was suppressed.
However, following being unable to complete my final two weeks of chemotherapy I was offered a picc line for six weeks to finish the treatment. This was great, I had no side effects what so ever and I had no symptoms.
I am now cancer free and have returned to my work. I have been able to go out and socialise with friends and family and not feel exhausted. I have been able to get back to enjoying my life the way I had before that phone call. I feel fantastic now and could not be more thankful to the team at the beatson. I still have my down days but I’m thankful that these are far and few between.
For others that may have to go through what I have, the best advice that I can give is to remain positive, and try not to focus on the negatives, although this is hard. Speak about how you are feeling both physically and mentally with your family and the nurses and team at the beatson as they could not have been more helpful to me throughout my treatment.
In 2022 Carolann completed a fundraiser that was held within her local pub. She raised a fantastic £1,174.30. She said "it allowed me to give a little back to the team at The Beatson for all the amazing support they have given me as well as thousands of others and their families."
We're so grateful to Carolann for her support and for sharing her story.