Bowel cancer: I want my story to serve as a warning
Published 19/04/2014 | 14:30
A Belfast man diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer is urging others not to "die of ignorance" and get any symptoms checked by a doctor.
Every year in Northern Ireland around 1,200 people are diagnosed and more than 400 people die from bowel cancer, making it Northern Ireland's second biggest cancer killer.
Symptoms often develop late in the disease, leaving limited scope for treatment and potential cure.
Michael Rugman (51), from Belvoir in south Belfast, was diagnosed in 2010.
Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer or colon cancer, is any cancer that affects the colon (large bowel) and rectum (back passage).
If detected at a very early stage bowel cancer treatment can have a 90% success rate.
Michael says he is talking publicly about his battle to help Action Cancer spread awareness of signs and symptoms of the disease.
"One day I felt a sharp pain in my side. I went into work and my colleagues told me to go to straight to the doctor, as I was as white as a sheet," he said.
"Following some tests I was sent for a colonoscopy. The results came back that I had a cancerous tumour. As you can imagine, this came as a massive shock. I was only 47 at the time. I thought: 'Why me?'"
Michael underwent surgery and had his bowel resectioned, and had chemotherapy. "The chemo was a real struggle but I thought this is going to make me better, I have to do this."
But following his treatment Michael received bad news two years later in January 2012, when an ultrasound picked up a tumour in his liver.
He then had to undergo further surgery and a second bout of chemotherapy.
Following this the cancer spread to Michael's stomach and lungs, and he underwent a third bout of chemo last summer.
Michael is now at the palliative, end-of-life care stage: "I am at the end of my life, but the way I see it my life has being prolonged because of the treatments available.
"I can't praise the medical professionals I have encountered on my journey highly enough. I've also learned how to live with cancer with help and support from the charity's Positive Living Programme."
He added: "My message is to listen to your body, if you display any of the symptoms, get to your GP.
"If you fall within the 60-71 age for bowel screening, do the bowel cancer screening test that's posted out to you.
"Early diagnosis saves lives. Don't die of ignorance."
For information visit www.actioncancer.org.
Symptoms that might be signs of bowel cancer include:
Blood in your stools or bleeding from your rectum
Loose and more frequent bowel movements lasting three weeks or more
Abdominal pain or feeling of constant bloating
Unexplained weight loss
Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
Fatigue and breathlessness