Men’s health awareness month in the UK is an important time to shed light on the various health issues that affect men. Even in this day and age, there is a stigma surrounding men’s health and – more significantly – not talking about it.

My father took his health for granted, and after suffering from 2 heart attacks – the first of which he ignored – caused him to have multiple health issues in his 50s, leading him to medically retire. He grew up in a time when men were told to ‘man up’ and ‘real men don’t cry’, and he never discussed his medical history with anyone. He sadly passed away in 2021 (Coronavirus), the same year of which I was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

I’ve chosen to speak about bowel cancer, which has had a profound impact on me and my family, both physically and emotionally – even now two years after my diagnoses. This is why I feel it is crucial to raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of this awful disease, as early detection can greatly improve outcomes, and I also wanted to shed light on life after a colostomy.

Bowel Cancer

According to Bowel Cancer UK, 1 in 15 men will be diagnosed with bowel cancer in their lifetime. But it is treatable, and the earlier the diagnosis, the better the chances. I was considered by my GP as a ‘healthy young man’, and I lived a relatively healthy lifestyle. I was in the best shape of my life, and then – what felt like a blink of the eye – I fell gravely ill and spent several months in hospital before being rushed to theatre for an emergency Hartmann’s procedure. When I woke up after surgery, I found a bag attached to my abdomen. That bag saved my life, and that is why I’ve made it my life’s work to raise awareness of both bowel cancer and living with a stoma.

It’s important to know the signs of bowel cancer and the common misconception that it only affects people above the age of 50. In fact, it is becoming more and more common for younger people to be diagnosed with bowel cancer. If you or a loved one is suffering from the following symptoms, please contact your GP:

Blood in your stools Changes in bowel habit Unexplained weight loss Fatigue for no obvious reason A pain or lump in your tummy

I didn’t have all the symptoms, and most of them gradually worsened over time. It could be nothing, but it could save your life.

Colostomy & Stoma

For those who undergo surgery for bowel cancer, living with a stoma or colostomy becomes a reality. For some, their stoma could be temporarily in place before your colon is reattached at a later date. However, for others – like me – it isn’t possible, but that doesn’t mean you can’t live a full and meaningful life. In fact, it is the complete opposite for me. I’ve found a community who care and accept me for who I am, and it has given me purpose, and I genuinely feel my life has more meaning than ever before.

Although the adjustment can be challenging, it’s important to remember that support and resources are available. Men’s health awareness month serves as a splendid opportunity to provide education and support for individuals navigating life with a stoma or colostomy. There is a wealth of information on Respond Healthcare’s website and a wonderful community online on social media, and the Ambassadors for Respond Healthcare LTD are there for you along the way.

By promoting understanding, compassion, and access to information, we can help break down barriers surrounding men’s health issues – such as bowel cancer and life with a stoma – and empower individuals to seek timely medical care. Together, let us work towards creating a society where men feel supported in their journey towards better health and well-being. If it wasn’t for my family who encouraged me to see my GP, I wouldn’t be here today, and I am forever grateful for the amazing NHS staff that saved my life.