Britain’s longest surviving bowel cancer patient, who was given one year to live 17 years ago, is now cancer free.
Bex Papa-Adams, from Hempstead, Kent, was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer at the age of 29 and was told she had about a year to live.
Now 17 years and nine major operations later, the 45-year-old mum-of-three is cancer-free and has become a fully-qualified yoga teacher.
She believes Dame Deborah James, who died last month at the age of 40, and was buried on Wednesday, has done a lot to release the stigma of the disease with her Check Your Poo message and Me and the Big C podcast.
Bex Papa-Adams, from Hempstead, Kent, is Britain’s longest surviving bowel cancer patient, who was given one year to live 17 years ago and is now cancer free
The campaigner was diagnosed with the same cancer as Bex and both stressed the importance of pushing for an early diagnosis.
Bex, who lives with husband Theo said: ‘It took 18 months to diagnose me, yet I had symptoms like blood in my stools.
‘They said I was too young when I asked if it could be cancer. They said I was paranoid it could be piles.’
Her family have been told by doctors she is likely to be the longest surviving stage-four bowel cancer patient in Britain.
Now 17 years and nine major operations later, the 45-year-old mum-of-three is cancer-free and has become a fully-qualified yoga teacher
Bex, who lives with husband Theo (right) was diagnosed with stage-four bowel cancer at the age of 29 and was told she had about a year to live
She now has a permanent stoma but believes had it been caught earlier it might have been a different scenario because the disease may not have spread so fast.
She said: ‘Dame Deborah has opened up a conversation about bowel cancer. Too many people suffer in silence. They feel embarrassed talking about it.’
Previously fit and healthy, she said: ‘I couldn’t even go out in the garden without having an accident.’
In 2007 she was told she had secondary liver cancer and again her life was put on hold with more gruelling treatment as she was bringing up a young family.
She believes Dame Deborah James, (pictured) who died last month at the age of 40, and was buried on Wednesday, has done a lot to release the stigma of the disease with her Check Your Poo message and Me and the Big C podcast
She added: ‘Many times I was told I might not pull through and my family were called to come and say their goodbyes.
‘All my operations were life-saving and lasted about six hours. My last operation was six weeks ago, and I was a week in intensive care and four weeks in a high-dependency ward.’
She puts her strength to carry on down to her yoga and her husband, who she describes as ‘a pillar of strength’.
Her Inspire My Yoga online programme has 130,000 subscribers and she used breathing techniques and meditation throughout her treatment.
She said all her operations were ;life-saving and lasted about six hours’ and her last operation was six weeks ago
Bex was pictured with two of her children Phodi, 25, and Claire, 25, after her life saving surgery
Theo, who runs Papas Barn Fish and Chips Restaurant and Takeaway in Aylesford, stressed the importance of challenging doctors and medics if you feel ‘there’s something wrong’.
He said: ‘You must push for answers and ask questions. We are taking one day at a time and each time we are bouncing back.’
The couple have three children, Claire, 25, Phodi, 25 and Andy, 21.
Their eldest son Phodi – a personal trainer who also works at his dad’s business – is planning to run five marathons in five consecutive days in September to raise awareness of bowel cancer and, in particular, of post surgery care.
She puts her strength to carry on down to her yoga and her husband, who she describes as ‘a pillar of strength’
The 25-year-old, who is based at the Sisu gym on the Medway City Estate, said: ‘I’m super fit and strong, but I don’t run.
‘In fact, I hate running, which is why I’m doing it because my mum hates going to hospital. It’s a challenge. Up to now I’ve only managed a 10k.’
His parents are ‘immensely proud’ of Phodi’s mammoth fundraiser in which he will run 130 miles – about the distance between Rochester and Norwich cathedrals.
Theo said: ‘This is way out of his comfort zone.’
Incredible! Bex (right) with a medic (left) on the day she left the hospital in June this year as cancer free
THE SYMPTOMS OF BOWEL CANCER, WHICH DEVELOPS FROM POLYPS IN THE COLON AND RECTUM
Bowel, or colorectal, cancer affects the large bowel, which is made up of the colon and rectum.
Such tumours usually develop from pre-cancerous growths, called polyps.
- Bleeding from the bottom
- Blood in stools
- A change in bowel habits lasting at least three weeks
- Unexplained weight loss
- Extreme, unexplained tiredness
- Abdominal pain
Most cases have no clear cause, however, people are more at risk if they:
- Are over 50
- Have a family history of the condition
- Have a personal history of polyps in their bowel
- Suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease
- Lead an unhealthy lifestyle
Treatment usually involves surgery, and chemo- and radiotherapy.
More than nine out of 10 people with stage one bowel cancer survive five years or more after their diagnosis.
This drops significantly if it is diagnosed in later stages.
According to Bowel Cancer UK figures, more than 41,200 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK.
It affects around 40 per 100,000 adults per year in the US, according to the National Cancer Institute.