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Leighton Morris (Bowel Cancer Survivor)

Leighton Morris (Bowel Cancer Survivor)

Symptoms and diagnosis

My name is Leyton Morris. I've been based in the UK for 48 years. At the age of 38, I was not feeling my best and we couldn't put our finger on it. The doctors were unsure. It looked like colitis. I was anaemic and was showing symptoms of arthritis or colitis. My cancer markers came back as negative at the time of testing. The endoscopy showed about 800 polyps in my stomach.

And as I laid on the bed for the colonoscopy, I had the camera, I had the TV in sight so I could watch it. And as the camera went in, I was like, that's six, that's twelve. We're now more than twelve. Anyway, whilst going through the procedure, everything stopped. They discovered I had two and a half thousand plus polyps in my small intestine. The surgeon explained what had been found and highlighted that. He said that I had cancer.

Treatments I took and side effects

My cancer was diagnosed very early on. Fortunately, it hadn't spread through the lymph nodes or into any other parts. I literally just had a single cell that needed to be removed. But I was given chemotherapy for six months. It wasn't easy. I had long-lasting reactions from the chemo. I had become very forgetful. I have neuropathy pain in my feet and hands. Its because the chemo had killed the nerve endings. It is not going to get any worse but it wont get any better. So that's just something which I happen to live with now. Plus I had to build myself up again because I had lost so much weight.

My support system

I had very good support from the very day of diagnosis. I still like to see my surgeon every week because he shops in my local supermarket. So I literally get a consultation every week when I see them just to check everything's all right. Many people tell me I don't work wisely. But I've got support around me at home and at work.

What to expect from this cancer type

If you think something's not right, then go and get it checked out. If you think the first opinion is not correct, then go and get a second opinion. Bowel cancer comes in so many different shapes and sizes. The downside of this cancer is it can also reappear. So, again, don't bury your head in the sand. If you think something's wrong, go and seek that advice.

Lifestyle changes and recovery

My life changed completely after cancer. Because of the removal of the rectum items, I can't have a reversal. I sort of see the world slightly different now because of barriers with disabled toilets and the way people perceive you if you're coming out of a disabled toilet, et cetera. The recovery only happened by resting. So my first operation was nine weeks of literally doing nothing.

My life lessons

I suppose just don't take tomorrow's granted. We never know what's around the corner. Just live for today, not tomorrow. So it's a very good thing to live for today, not tomorrow. 

How do I reward myself?

I suppose I should give myself a time-out. I make sure to do sports and other things away from the work in life and just embrace everything.

Life after cancer

My life after cancer has seen a lot of changes but sleep deprivation is a big one. But I wasn't a particularly great sleeper. Another thing is there is no solution to the pain in the feet. That is one of the big differences after having cancer, and I believe that's a small price to pay.

Message to cancer fighters and caregivers

Embrace your life and enjoy todays. Just remember, some survivors do struggle. They do have the mental health aspects to deal with after such a diagnosis. And for a lot of people, it's a very intrusive sort of surgery with little real healing. But if a person has a bad day, it's not aimed at you. They're just situation at the time. Unfortunately, those who are close to you are the ones who can hurt more than anybody else. So try not to take things personally.

The stigma attached to cancer

I think the one thing is if somebody's told they got cancer, they automatically think they're going to die. And cancer treatments have come so far now that for a lot of people, it just tends to be a blessing in their journey. I try to encourage others to just approach it with that positive mental attitude and that will give you so much strength. I've seen people taking that negative approach against it. And that is what kills them, not cancer. They just give up rather than fight it. Its a perfect thing because we should take what comes by rather than focus on the negativity around us. We should look at the positive outcomes.

Future plans 

I like to think that I provide a positive story around such a grey, black and horrible area, which gives others hope that there is something better. I've done a fair bit of fundraising for bowel cancer especially. One thing, when I was recovering from the first operation, I was in the hospital in bed. I wanted to sort of start challenging myself with things that I didn't do before. I hate heights. I'm not a fan of heights at all. So I did a skydive. There's a possibility I may be going to the Antarctic next year for a week-long expedition, which is certainly something I wouldn't have done beforehand, whereas now I like to test and push myself outside the barriers.

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