Doctors said he was depressed and had IBS; the truth was shocking, he was only 22 years old

Doctors said he was depressed and had IBS;  the truth was shocking, he was only 22 years old

A WOMAN says she was misdiagnosed with IBS and depression when she actually had cancer aged 22.

Sophie Anderson said “because of her age”, no one ever suspected she had a terminal illness.

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Sophie’s bowel problems were misdiagnosed as IBS or Crohn’s, when in fact she had bowel cancer. She is recently seen with her colostomy and urostomy bagsCredit: PA Real Life
The 24-year-old has had two bowel tumors removed, a hysterectomy (which makes her infertile and menopausal) and many more operations.

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The 24-year-old has had two bowel tumors removed, a hysterectomy (which makes her infertile and menopausal) and many more operations.Credit: PA Real Life

The 24-year-old, from Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, first experienced health problems in 2016, aged 18, after starting a university course.

She said: “One day I needed to go to the toilet and I passed a lot of blood.

“It was strange but it didn’t happen again for a while so I thought maybe it was just a moment.

“Then I started feeling very heavy, constantly bloated and tired.

“I was quite depressed because my body felt so weak and I couldn’t put my finger on why.”

As her mental health became increasingly fragile, Sophie moved home at Easter 2017 and saw her GP, who diagnosed her with depression and anxiety.

In July 2017, then working as a caregiver, she started bleeding more frequently.

She said: “Sometimes I would go a week without anything. Then there were a lot of them and I became more constipated.”

Seeing different doctors over the next several months, she was diagnosed with digestive disorders including IBS, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, colon spasms and constipation.

It wasn’t until Sophie dropped two kilos during the summer of 2019, while on a restricted diet to see if she had Crohn’s disease, that doctors thought otherwise.

She was booked in for a colonoscopy, to check the inside of her intestines, and a biopsy a month later revealed she had bowel cancer.

Sophie, who just turned 22, said: “I remember being relieved at first, because it meant there was something wrong with me, but I think I felt numb.

“I remember telling my GP that I have a history of bowel cancer on my mother’s side of the family.

“I think because of my age, it was assumed that it could never be cancer.”

Key symptoms of bowel cancer include blood in the stool, a change in toileting habits such as constipation or diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Constipation is rarely caused by bowel cancer, says the NHS.

Sophie said: “No one seems to be looking for bowel cancer in people under a certain age.

“If someone had suspected bowel cancer earlier, they’d probably be in a better position now.”

Sophie’s grandparents had died of bowel cancer.

And research revealed he also had Lynch syndrome – an inherited gene that shows a strong history of colon cancer – also detected in his grandfather’s DNA, as well as his mother’s.

Sophie said: “It never occurred to me that I could have the same.”

Families who have Lynch syndrome have more cases of cancer than expected.

But although bowel cancer is generally considered a disease of the elderly, 2,600 people under the age of 50 are diagnosed in the UK each year, and this number is rising.

Heavy surgery

Sophie had chemotherapy before you removed a tumor the size of a grapefruit in her intestine.

She also had a full hysterectomy (removal of the reproductive organs), which left her infertile and menopausal.

Sophie was confirmed to be in remission in July, but suffered a devastating blow just months later in October 2020.

The cancer had returned and spread to her lymph nodes, becoming stage three, and Sophie was told the tumor in her bowel was very large.

She said: “I started to think it was actually something that could kill me.

“It started to feel very real and to mess with my head. I was really scared of the idea of ​​dying in my sleep.”

To try to shrink the tumor before surgery, she was admitted to the hospital for three months of immunotherapy, a specialized cancer treatment.

He pulled through despite suffering significant liver damage and suspected sepsis, a life-threatening reaction to an infection.

In June 2021, Sophie had a 14-hour operation to remove the tumour, as well as part of her vagina, rectum, bowel, bladder and coccyx, where the tumor had spread.

He also had a pelvic reconstruction, some of the nerves in his left leg were severed due to damage from the coccyx.

A permanent colostomy and urostomy were fitted, meaning Sophie’s waste leaves through an opening in her stomach (stoma) into a bag attached to her body.

During the surgery, doctors found internal bleeding and Sophie was taken back to theater for four hours.

She didn’t come for another five days.

Sophie said: “I was told I woke up after the surgery and kept screaming.

“Waking up with two bags on my stomach and no feeling in my left leg was really scary. I felt broken.

“I was afraid my life was over and the surgery might not work.

“The surgeon told me that the tumor in my bowel and pressing on my organs had been the size of a football.”

Sophie had also suffered a stroke which means she is now sometimes confused or confused.

For two months after her operations, Sophie remained in intensive care.

When she got home, she began a year-long recovery, relying on her parents (Elizabeth and Simon Anderson) and her boyfriend (Alex, 24) to help her regain her health.

Sophie said: “Losing part of my vagina made me feel like I wasn’t such a woman anymore.

“I was already completely infertile, with no possibility of having biological children because of the surgery.

“Alex and I have been together for six years and he has been very supportive.

“We have talked about adoption in the future, or surrogacy, but we will just have to see what happens.

“For so long, we were almost in this caregiver-partner relationship and now we’re back to being a proper couple again.”

This summer things turned a corner; Sophie drove for the first time in two years, went on a charity trip to Bournemouth, Dorset and two music festivals.

In September, she will return to the job she had before her diagnosis: teaching assistant.

Sophie is now in remission and, inspired by bowel cancer campaigner Dame Deborah James, is determined to raise awareness of the disease, particularly among young people.

She said: “It’s really important to recognize the symptoms, even if you’re young, when it’s easy to brush certain things off and think they’ll go away.

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“You have to listen to your body and push for the right tests, because it could save your life.

“I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through.”

For two months after her operations, Sophie remained in intensive care.  He also spent a year recovering at home

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For two months after her operations, Sophie remained in intensive care. He also spent a year recovering at homeCredit: PA Real Life
Sophie with her incredibly supportive boyfriend Alex, 24, at a festival this summer

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Sophie with her incredibly supportive boyfriend Alex, 24, at a festival this summerCredit: PA Real Life
Sophie Anderson with her father, Simon Anderson, mother, Elizabeth Anderson and her brother, Ash Anderson, 22

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Sophie Anderson with her father, Simon Anderson, mother, Elizabeth Anderson and her brother, Ash Anderson, 22Credit: PA Real Life


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