Laura Davies was just 28-years-old when she was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer and told she would need extensive surgery and chemotherapy that could leave her unable to have another baby.
Now aged 34 years, Laura has returned to the Royal Surrey to introduce baby Georgia to Dr Tony Dhillion, one of the oncologists she credits with saving her life.
“The care I received at Royal Surrey was outstanding – they saved my life,” said Laura.
“Dr Dhillon was just amazing, he is always so positive and has a way of just letting you know that you’re in safe hands.
“I can remember after my diagnosis he said to me ‘now we know what we are dealing with, we can do this.’”
She has made the brave decision to share her story as part of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness of the most common symptoms and to highlight that you’re never too young to be diagnosed with the condition that is most commonly diagnosed in those aged over 50 years.
Laura was at a routine pregnancy appointment before the birth of her first child when she mentioned to the GP that she had blood in her stools, a common symptom of bowel cancer.
The symptoms of bowel cancer can be subtle and don’t necessarily make you feel ill, although more than 90 per cent of patients have one of the following:
- a persistent change in bowel habit
- blood in stools
- abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought on by eating
However, most people with these symptoms will not have bowel cancer.
Following the birth of India in December 2013, Laura underwent a colonoscopy at the hospital in Guildford, Surrey and was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
Further tests revealed that the cancer had spread to the area around her bowel, as well as the liver and potentially her reproductive organs.
“It felt like my world had fallen out from under me,” said Laura, who lives in Godalming, Surrey and runs a youth theatre with her husband, Simon.
“I was in shock I had just kept thinking what if I die and leave behind the baby.
“I then made the biggest mistake and went on the internet where I read about bowel cancer being the second biggest killer and the survival rates were low.”
Laura underwent a bowel resection in August 2014 and there was good news. Although her cancer had spread to the surrounding tissue it had not reached the nearby organs, so her ovaries and fallopian tubes were safe.
Following the surgery Laura, now aged 34 years, underwent six rounds of gruelling chemotherapy before another operation, which saw more than half of her liver removed.
She then endured yet more chemotherapy but was supported by the team at Royal Surrey.
Laura said: “I was on the phone to the cancer nurses all the time and they were always so patient with me and happy to talk through my concerns.
“I never felt rushed when I went to see Dr Dhillion in clinic and always had the time to ask any questions.”
Laura got her first all clear in May 2015 and first raised the prospect of having another baby.
“I was advised to wait three years and told not to get my hopes up because the treatment may have made me infertile.
“We waited until the three years had passed and I got pregnant almost straight away.
“When I told the nurses they had tears in their eyes.”
She recently bought baby Georgia, who was born in January at Royal Surrey, to meet Dr Dhillon and the team.
Laura is now using her story to advise others of the importance of getting any health concerns checked out.
“When you are sat in the room for hours on end having chemotherapy you look at everyone sitting around you, there were those who had lost their hair and others having palliative treatment , and I bet none of them every expected to be there,” she said.
“We always think these things won’t happen to us, but it happens to a lot more people than you realise.
“Please don’t ignore any health concerns or feel embarrassed to go and see your GP, you may experience a few minutes of discomfort but it could save your life.”
Dr Tony Dhillon, who is a medical oncologist, said: “I was very touched to see Laura and her new baby in clinic the other day- she has come a long way from those dark days at diagnosis.
“She took on the treatment like she was on a mission – she is an example to others that this disease can be overcome.
“For me seeing her with her new baby makes me feel proud to be a doctor.”