A mother spent two weeks planning her own funeral after ignoring the signs of colon cancer.
Tasha Thor-Straten, 49, wiped the blood in her stool as a symptom of “work or parenting stress.”
But when the blood “became too much to show,” Tasha reluctantly went to the GP — who referred her for a colonoscopy.
Two weeks later, the mother from Rochford, Essex, was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer, which had spread to her lungs.
Devastated, Tasha returned home and began planning her funeral until the test results offered a window of hope a year later.
The mother received treatment for stage 3 cancer after the lung nodules doctors discovered were found to be benign.
She went on four rounds of chemotherapy, with Tasha reaching out to Dame Deborah James for support.
The Sun’s stellar columnist Dame Deborah, known online as Bowel Babe, was awarded a Damehood this month for her “tireless campaign” to raise awareness of colon cancer.
About her own battle with cancer, Tasha said, “I can’t describe the feeling when someone tells you you have a terminal illness.
“I was only 44, had young children and a new relationship and suddenly the rug was pulled from under my feet.
“I feel incredibly lucky to still be here today, which is why I now work as a life coach helping other cancer patients understand things like how their diet can improve their health during treatment.”
Tasha – who had moved in with her new partner Russ shortly before her diagnosis – shared how she ignored the signs of colon cancer.
She added: “I ignored the blood in my stool.
“I thought nothing of it and assumed it was simply related to things like work or parenting stress.
“I went to my GP practice twice and didn’t dare say anything because I was afraid of the process and what could happen.
“When I look back on that time, there were other symptoms, such as abdominal pain from exercise and lower back pain, but I blame that on overexertion.
“It wasn’t until Christmas 2016 that the blood loss became too much and I reluctantly went to the doctor who referred me for a colonoscopy.”
Just two weeks after her colonoscopy, on January 27, 2017, Tasha was brought in for her results.
She was told she had terminal colon cancer that had spread to her lungs – and was offered palliative care.
“It was utterly shocking and devastating,” Tasha added.
“It never occurred to me that my symptoms could be colon cancer. I was fit, healthy and took care of my diet and there was no history of it in my family.
“Finding out it wasn’t just cancer, but that I was going to die from it was almost too much to bear.”
But things took an unexpected and most welcome turn when Tasha returned to the hospital in February 2017 for further results.
She said: “On closer inspection, although I have lung nodules, the doctors found that they are not cancer. That gave me a window of hope.”
She said she had stage 3 cancer because her new results made her a candidate for invasive and potentially life-saving surgery.
She said: “There was no time like the present.
It never occurred to me that my symptoms could be colon cancer. I was fit, healthy and took care of my diet and there was no history of it in my family.
“I had surgery on February 28. They cut out the part of my bowel where the cancer was, which was about a 35mm tumor and then they had to reassemble my bowel.”
The surgery was a success, and after a few weeks of recovery, Tasha began chemotherapy.
She said: “I couldn’t handle the first few rounds of chemotherapy well, so my doctors extended the time between treatments to give my body more time to recover.
“Yet my side effects were serious, including extreme fatigue, sadness, nerve pain and an adverse reaction to sunlight and the cold.”
During this treatment, she contacted Dame Deborah James.
She said: “I saw on social media that she was having trouble sleeping because of the treatment. I was going through the same thing so I messaged her.
“It was really nice to talk to someone who understood exactly what I was going through. She offered me a few nuggets of advice and it was a real comfort.”
In August 2017, Tasha was officially given cancer clearance.
The Signs of Colon Cancer You Need to Know – Remember BOWEL
- B: Bleeding
There are several possible causes of bleeding from your buttocks, from blood in your poop.
Bright red blood can come from swollen blood vessels, hemorrhoids, or hemorrhoids in your back passage.
Dark red or black blood may come from your gut or stomach.
Blood in your stool is one of the main signs of colon cancer, so it’s important to report it to your doctor so they can investigate.
2. O: Significant change in toilet habits
It is important to inform your GP if you notice any changes in your bowel habits that last for three weeks or more.
It’s especially important if you’ve also noticed signs of blood in your poo.
You may notice that you need to go to the toilet more often, that you have looser stools or that you don’t feel like you are going enough or completely emptying your bowels.
Don’t be ashamed, your doctor must have heard a lot worse! Say it and have it checked.
3. W: Weight Loss
This is less common than the other symptoms, but it’s important to watch out for. If you’ve lost weight and aren’t sure why, it’s worth reporting to your doctor.
You may not feel like eating, feel sick, bloated and not hungry.
4. E: Extreme Fatigue
Colon cancer that causes bleeding can cause a lack of iron in the body – anemia. If you get anemia, you probably feel tired and your skin looks pale.
5. L: Lumpy or Pain
As with many other cancers, a lump or pain can be a sign of colon cancer.
It is very likely that you will notice a pain or lump in your stomach or spine.
See your doctor if it doesn’t go away, or if it affects how you eat or sleep