Woman going through menopause at the tender age of 26

Turning the hospital air conditioning up to full blast, Victoria Jackson sighed as the sweat poured from her skin.

Not many 26-year-olds have to deal with the menopause – but hot flushes and night sweats are something she has got used to.

Victoria, from Maghaberry, Co Antrim., was diagnosed with bowel cancer, which had spread to her ovaries and abdominal cavity last year.

Her only option was radical surgery to cut away a third of her bowel and a full hysterectomy – forcing her into early menopause.

Fewer than one in ten people survive bowel cancer if it’s picked up at stage 4, but detected quickly, more than nine in ten patients will live five years or longer.

Early diagnosis is key, which is why The Sun launched the No Time 2 Lose campaign – to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of the disease, to empower everyone to check themselves.

The mum-of-one started suffering with bouts of diarrhoea and stomach cramps after every meal in summer 2018.

Initially she didn’t want to bother her GP – partly because she didn’t want to waste the doctor’s time and partly because she felt embarrassed about her toilet troubles.

Instead her unpredictable bowels became a running joke in her household.

“My eight-year-old son George would ask ‘Where’s Mummy?’ So my hubby Simon would reply ‘Where do you think? She’s on the loo again’.

“We just didn’t think it could be anything serious at my age.”

I didn’t want to sit in front of my male doctor and tell him I was pooing all the time.

But as the months past, Victoria’s condition became more and more debilitating.

“It was affecting my whole life. Whenever we went anywhere I was always looking for the nearest loo,” she said.

“I had a couple of near misses and had to run out of meetings at work a few times.

“George plays football and the Portaloos at the side of the pitch can be pretty unpleasant, so I’d deliberately not eat before his matches so I wouldn’t get caught short.

“At my worst, I was running to the loo up to 12 times a day.”

After about six months Victoria made an appointment with her GP, but was told her problems were down to haemorrhoids and given some cream.

“I didn’t question it, I was just relieved to have an answer,” says Victoria, now 27.

“It had been hard enough to sit in front of a doctor and tell her I was pooing all the time.

READ also >>>  Sunmbo Adeoye's husband, friends surprise her with a baby shower (photos)

“I was a busy mum to George and I’d just got married to my hubby Simon.

“I was brushing my tummy troubles under the carpet. We all know the NHS is under pressure, I didn’t want to bother them with something silly like my toilet habits.

“But I was still in so much pain, sometimes I couldn’t even zip up my jeans.

“As the symptoms persisted Simon and my mum Joan kept pushing me to go back.”

Eventually, in March 2019, a locum GP referred Victoria to Belfast’s Ulster Hospital for a sigmoidoscopy examination, where an endoscope camera is used to view the bowel.

By this time, she was finding large amounts of blood in her stools.

Her procedure was scheduled for Mother’s Day, 2019.

She said: “After the scan, the doctor immediately asked if Simon could come in to join us.

“He’d been sitting out in the waiting room. That’s when I knew it was bad news.

“The doctor said he’d need to do a biopsy to be sure, but he’d found a huge mass almost completely blocking my bowel. He couldn’t get the camera past it.

“He said that in his opinion it was cancer.

“I couldn’t believe it, I was too young for bowel cancer.”

The doctor told me it meant I couldn’t have any more children

But an MRI and CT scans brought more bad news – the cancer had already spread beyond the bowel to both of Victoria’s ovaries and lymph nodes.

Her only option was surgery to cut away a third of her bowel and give her a full hysterectomy.

“The doctor told me it meant I couldn’t have any more children,” she says.

“I think he expected me to freak out, but I just told him it was more important that I stay alive for the son I already have.

“Simon is 40 and has other children from a previous relationship, so we’d already talked about not having any more kids. My survival was much more important.”

Victoria underwent surgery on May 3, 2019, and surgeons found evidence of cancer cells in her peritoneum – the fluid in her abdominal cavity.

“That was the most worrying bit,” she explains.

“They couldn’t remove that during the operation so we had to hope that the chemo would kill it.”

The doctor told me it meant I couldn’t have any more children.

READ also >>>  Legal secrets of celebrities at risk after hackers steal data from law firm and demand $21m ransom

But an MRI and CT scans brought more bad news – the cancer had already spread beyond the bowel to both of Victoria’s ovaries and lymph nodes.

Her only option was surgery to cut away a third of her bowel and give her a full hysterectomy.

“The doctor told me it meant I couldn’t have any more children,” she says.

“I think he expected me to freak out, but I just told him it was more important that I stay alive for the son I already have.

“Simon is 40 and has other children from a previous relationship, so we’d already talked about not having any more kids. My survival was much more important.”

“That was the most worrying bit,” she explains.

“They couldn’t remove that during the operation so we had to hope that the chemo would kill it.”

She began 12 gruelling cycles of chemotherapy.

She was prescribed HRT, but warned that her menopause was on its way.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” she says. “My friends were all talking about babies… no one my age has any clue about the menopause.

“Soon I was waking up at night, and breaking into sweats for no
reason.

“I didn’t know which of my symptoms were due to the chemotherapy and which to the menopause.

“Thankfully this particular chemo drug hasn’t made me lose my hair, but it has brought me out in an acne rash all over my face and chest.

“One day I was sat in my hospital room during a chemo session, with the air con on full blast, and a nurse came in and said ‘brrrrrrrr it’s freezing in here!’

“I was like ‘Really? I’m boiling! The sweat’s lashing off me!’

“The nurse said ‘Oh, that’ll be your menopause’. That’s when the penny finally dropped.”

Victoria, who works in community development for Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, is now on targeted hormone therapy and is awaiting the results of her latest scan.

She and Simon have told George that there is a ‘bug in mummy’s tummy called cancer’ and she is taking ‘special medicine to fix it’.

Victoria is telling her story because she wants to raise awareness of early bowel cancer symptoms in younger patients.

“I’ve lost all my embarrassment now,” she laughs. “After everything
that’s happened to me, I could talk about poo all day.

“If something’s not right with your toilet habits, get it checked out.

READ also >>>  Angry Imo youths attack Governor Uzodinma’s convoy

“If I’d caught my cancer earlier then it might not have spread and I
might not have needed a hysterectomy.

“Also don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion if you have worrying
symptoms and your GP isn’t taking you seriously.”

Victoria’s mum Joan Brown, 60, said: “Bowel cancer isn’t talked about as much as some other cancers and we just assume it mainly affects older people.

“If Victoria had been diagnosed sooner she might have had more treatment options.”

There are two ways to ensure early diagnosis – screening and awareness.

In the UK, bowel cancer is one of three screening programmes, alongside breast and cervical cancers.

But, Brits are subjected to a bowel cancer screening postcode lottery.

In Scotland, screening starts at 50 – yet in England, Wales and Northern Ireland people have to wait until their 60th birthdays to be invited for screening.

That’s why The Sun launched the No Time 2 Lose campaign in April 2018 – to call on the Government to lower the screening age to 50.

Experts predict the move could save around 4,500 lives every year.

In the summer of 2018, health secretary Matt Hancock announced screening in England would be lowered to 50 – marking a victory for The Sun and campaigners, including Lauren Backler, who lost her mum Fiona to the disease aged just 53.

Genevieve Edwards, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK, said: “We’re so grateful to Victoria for sharing her story and highlighting the importance of visiting a doctor with bowel cancer symptoms as soon as possible.

“Bowel cancer is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer, but it’s treatable and curable, especially when diagnosed and treated early.

“GPs see patients with bowel concerns every day, so you shouldn’t be embarrassed to visit them if you have symptoms like bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo, a persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit, unexplained weight loss, extreme tiredness for no obvious reason and a pain or lump in your tummy.

“We’re concerned right now that the coronavirus pandemic has stopped many people with bowel cancer symptoms contacting their doctor, because they don’t want to burden the NHS at this time of crisis, or are worried about catching coronavirus by leaving the house.

“But if you have any of the symptoms of bowel cancer please contact your GP as soon as possible.”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here