Co Antrim mum diagnosed with stage 4 cancer after being told she was too young

A Co Antrim mum has spoken out about her cancer journey in hope that it will break the taboo which surrounds it.

Jessica Sturgeon, 30, from Newtownabbey, was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer after she experienced symptoms association with it - passing blood and stomach pain. Admitting that she had put off a colonoscopy because of the nature of what it entails, Jessica is now raising awareness, after her ordeal.

Speaking to Belfast Live, Jessica says in February 2021, she began to have severe abdominal pains, but being just 28-years-old, she said she was told she was too young for it to be cancer.

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"One day I was totally fine, and then the pain suddenly came on," the mum-of-two said.

"I was vomiting too, and had hot sweats, so my family rushed me to the doctors, who sent me to A&E, and it was originally taught that I had kidney stones, or a serious kidney infection. This went on until February 2022, and at that point, they were querying IBS or Crohn's Disease. I was admitted to hospital and was there overnight, and I was given laxatives.

"I was in A&E about 20 times in a year, with the pains, and the tests showed inflammation in bowel. An X-RAY showed nothing, but if I had CT, it maybe would have showed up.

"Then in July 2022, I started to pass blood going to the bathroom and every time I needed to go to the toilet, it always felt like there was something there, but I couldn't go. We went to the caravan in July and I took very ill - I thought I was dying. I was vomiting a brown substance and my urine was almost black.

"Blood tests came back and they thought I had Irritable Bowel Disease - they told me it wasn't cancer - then three months later, I went for a colonoscopy, and was diagnosed with cancer."

Jessica says although it was a big shock, to hear those words 'you have cancer', she knew deep down that there was something more sinister wrong with her body. She underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which has put her into early menopause but to prevent the cancer reoccurring, she made the decision to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed.

"In February, on my son's birthday, I was told that a scan showed no evidence of disease," Jessica said.

"That was amazing news for me and my family. Now I want to raise awareness for bowel cancer, because have told me they thought it was more associated with older people, but I wasn't even 30 when I was diagnosed.

"When people hear you are diagnosed with stage 4, they think it is the end, but it isn't. People do think it is for older people, and when I did attend for chemo, I was always the youngest there, but I want to highlight this, to highlight symptoms too.

"I put off going for a colonoscopy because I was so scared of it, but now I just want to tell anyone who is nervous, or having these symptoms, please speak out. I would go through the colonoscopy over and over again, as opposed to what I did go through with the cancer.

"I also would like to say a massive thanks to all the nurses at Laurel House in Antrim, to Dr Corey and Dr Davidson, Mr McAree and Dr Baranowski - they saved my life. I also want to say a huge thank you to everyone at the Radiotherapy Department at the Cancer Centre at the City Hospital. They are amazing."

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