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I was supposed to spend my 65th birthday in Florida celebrating. Instead, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer and rushed into surgery.

In late 2017, I had the first of many appointments that would lead to my diagnosis. For about 18 months I had been horribly sick every six weeks or so. As it was so infrequent and I didn’t have any other signs of something serious, I always thought it was something I’d eaten.

Eventually, I decided to finally see my GP who, after hearing my symptoms, assessed that it was a gallstone. This was confirmed by a scan. My children thought something more was wrong but I trusted the doctors and was set on the gallstone result.

With my family’s insistence and help, I secured an appointment at the end of December for an endoscopy to investigate my sickness further. I was called back for another endoscopy on 5th January and when I came out of the procedure there was a cancer nurse sitting next to me. I was told they had noticed a couple of spots which the doctors weren’t happy about and I was immediately given another appointment for the following week.

This is when I found out that I had a very nasty, aggressive tumour and it was cancerous. My oncologist told me that if they hadn’t caught the tumour then I would only have had 48 hours to live. I had been breezing along and suddenly the wind was taken out of my sails. I was absolutely stunned.

My surgery was booked for 29th January. I had been pushed to the top of the list so, two days before my birthday, I was taken into surgery. This was supposed to just be key hole surgery but as the tumour was so aggressive and was blocking everything, they had to do a bigger operation.

It turned out that all this time I hadn’t been getting any nutrients from my diet. The tumour had been causing a blockage, even my diabetes tablets were just stuck to the tumour.

This had all happened in the space of a month. For the next few months I was in and out of hospital for issues with my kidneys, to remove a colostomy bag and for six sessions of chemotherapy. I had a great team looking after me, I really couldn’t have wished for better treatment.

To help me cope with the physical and psychological effects of having cancer, I called The Nightingale. I was on the fence about whether to contact them but I knew I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I decided to explore how they could help me.

I’m so glad I went! The Nightingale helped me to keep a positive mind set. Whether joining an exercise class, having a massage or a counselling session, it all made a big difference. You’re meeting people in similar situations to you, who give you a boost every now and then when you need it. It’s something to look forward to, even just getting out of the house and having a cup of tea at the centre. You always come out feeling 100%.

Even now, after my treatment and during lockdown, The Nightingale have continued to call me to see how I’m getting on and just to make sure I’m OK. It’s fantastic that they’re still looking out for me.

Of course, I am incredibly grateful to my family, friends and NHS staff. I also wanted to say a special thank you to The Nightingale for helping me through this most difficult time. I’m in awe of the people I have met and the help I received along the way.

If you’ve had a similar experience to Richard and need someone to talk to about your or your loved ones diagnosis, call us on 020 8366 4333 today.