Mum who thought bloating was Christmas overindulgence actually had bowel cancer

Mum who thought bloating was Christmas overindulgence actually had bowel cancer

04/30/2021

Noticing some bloating and severe stomach cramps on Boxing Day, Rebecca Condie thought it was just the effects of a big Christmas dinner the day before.

But when the symptoms continued, she became more concerned.

Mum-of-three Rebecca, 37, from Guildford, Surrey, actually had a tumour which was completely blocking her bowel.

She made several trips to her GP and hospital, but was told it was ‘just constipation’.

An emergency trip to A&E when she started vomiting green bile led to the discovery that she had bowel cancer – and she would need urgent surgery.

Now, Rebecca is going through six months of chemotherapy, and doctors are hopeful she will be declared cancer-free once treatment ends.

Speaking out during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, Rebecca wants more people to be aware of all the symptoms of disease, particularly for younger people who are often dismissed because it is much more common in those over 50.

Up until Boxing Day 2020, Rebecca had been feeling well and had no symptoms at all.

She explains: ‘My first and only symptoms started on Boxing Day 2020. I had some bloating and severe stomach cramps.

‘However, It was Boxing Day – I’d had a fabulous Christmas dinner the day before, and presumed it was simply overindulgence, like the rest of the population!

‘Over the next few days, the cramps got worse with sharp pain on both sides of my abdomen, (which we now know was my bowel distending) and I couldn’t pass anything/go to the toilet. The pain was really unbearable.’

She says she has a high pain threshold, giving birth to her twins with minimal pain relief but this was like nothing she’s ever experienced.

She did consider bowel cancer having followed Deborah James, AKA @BowelBabe for years, but felt that her symptoms didn’t quite fit so was sure it was something else.

She says: ‘I didn’t have weight loss, fatigue, loose stools, blood. I had even looked it up on the NHS website, and it had said that constipation was very unlikely to be a symptom of bowel cancer.

‘It turns out, it was a complete blockage of my bowel with a tumour. So yes, constipation was a major symptom! My only symptoms were constipation, bloating and sharp abdominal pain.’

She visited the GP twice between Christmas and New Year and was given laxatives, but these made the pain worse.

On New Year’s Eve, she was sent to the Royal Surrey Hospital to have an emergency ultrasound on her gallbladder. 

Rebecca explains: ‘It was clear, and although hospital doctors had suggested I also have an x-ray and CT that day on my abdomen, the night shift took over and my scans were cancelled. I was sent home with a diagnosis of ‘constipation’. I was in pain and frustrated.’

For the three weeks after that, she kept going back to her GP about her symptoms.

‘I couldn’t walk without pain, I couldn’t sleep and I was tired of being told to take laxatives when I knew that they were making it worse,’ she says 


‘I was sent for an X-ray on my abdomen which simply showed up ‘constipation’. Nothing more was done. I was young, otherwise ‘fit’ and healthy, and I felt I wasn’t taken seriously. 

‘At one point my GP told me I’d simply have to go on ‘pain management’ – I was horrified – pain management for what? I needed a diagnosis, not just painkillers.’

On January 25 2021, she woke up and started vomiting green bile.

‘I hadn’t been able to eat or pass anything – and now I was vomiting,’ she says.

‘My husband decided enough was enough, packed me and the kids in the car, and drove me to A&E.

‘At the height of the pandemic, I obviously had to go in alone, which was daunting, but I knew I needed to be there. 

The signs and symptoms of bowel cancer

According to Bowel Cancer UK, the most common symptoms are:

  • Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
  • A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit 
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
  • A pain or lump in your tummy

‘My heart rate was off the scale, I had low blood pressure and it was obvious that something was wrong – they admitted me fairly quickly, and completed an X-ray – which showed a ‘blockage’.’

She had a further CT scan that evening but had to stay in hospital alone while waiting on the news.

She says: ‘I was visited by a lovely team of surgeons (I am still grateful for their kindness), who simply held my hand and told me the news.

‘They were very sorry but they could see a total blockage of my bowel, which they were 99% was a tumour, and I needed surgery either that night, or the following morning. 

‘There was no time to waste – the rest of my bowel was distended so much that it was at risk of rupturing. 


‘Although I had suspected that something was wrong, it was still a huge shock to be told on my own, in the middle of a pandemic, that I had cancer, and needed immediate surgery to save my life. 

‘I was told that due to extenuating circumstances, my husband could come in for an hour to see me that night.’

She was prepped for surgery the next morning and a nurse came to discuss the possibility of a stoma bag, which may be required depending on how the surgery goes.

Rebecca says: ‘The next thing I remember was waking up in ICU. I hadn’t needed a stoma, and surgery had gone well. The whole tumour had been removed, and it had luckily stopped just short of my Peritoneum – so I was classed as actively treatable. If it had spread just a tad further into my peritoneal lining, I would have been told that I was palliative. I was so relieved.

‘However, after around six days in recovery, it became clear that due to emergency surgery, I had some infections deep in my abdominal wound, and around my spleen. 

‘A week to the day of my first surgery, I was rushed into surgery once more in huge pain – the bowel resection had leaked slightly and the best thing to do was to give me an ileostomy (stoma bag on the small bowel), to allow recovery of what was left of my colon, and allow my infections to be treated. I was in isolation after this surgery due to an infection and spent two weeks in Intensive Care getting my strength up enough to be transferred to a ward.’

Finally, after a month in hospital, she was able to go home to her husband and three children.

Earlier this month, she started the first round of chemotherapy. The treatment will be every fortnight for six months.

She says: ‘They call it a ‘mop up’. As I had cancer cells in my lymph nodes, I need this to give me the best chance of a full recovery. Theoretically afterwards, I could be cancer-free. That’s the hope!’

Throughout everything, Rebecca has been touched by the support she’s received.

In August 2020, she set up an affordable, profit-sharing fashion label called Hey Lola with her sister, Anna.

Rebecca explains: ‘I’m a graphic designer and Anna has extensive sales experience in the city. We’re both very much into fashion and wearing uplifting designs and slogans, so decided to build the dream – our own company.’

Just before she was admitted to hospital, she created a design with the words ‘Chin Up’, which went on to become a symbol of support.

She explains: ‘I was feeling poorly at the time, and many of my friends and family were feeling low due to the pandemic – so Chin Up seemed like the perfect slogan. Little did I know how poignant it would become!

‘While I was in hospital, my sister (and business partner) Anna, decided to use our Chin Up design as a way of fundraising for charity – I loved the idea. We were using my design for the greater good and managed to raise over £3000 for Cancer Research UK in February and March, becoming one of Just Giving’s top fundraisers. 

‘I am so proud of the ‘movement’ and loved seeing friends, family, and huge numbers of people I’d never met, posting photos of themselves in my design. 

‘It gave me such a boost in hospital and undoubtedly helped me on my route to recovery! And although I’m not able to work at present, I can’t wait to get back to business and fundraising soon.’

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch at metrolifestyleteam@metro.co.uk.

Source: Read Full Article