ITV Presenter and Bowel Cancer UK Patron
ITV presenter and Bowel Cancer UK Patron Charlene White speaks on her family’s ordeal with the disease and the importance of early detection.
Mum’s battle with bowel cancer
12-years ago my mum was at home in bed surrounded by my dad, me and my siblings. She hadn’t been lucid about a fortnight. The hospital had sent her home because there was nothing else they could do for her. She didn’t want us to see her slowly die in a hospice, so she came home. Days later, on 22nd April 2002 she passed away. She’d battled hard for almost six years, but in the end cancer won.
Living with cancer
In those 6-years, cancer became a bit like an annoying ex-boyfriend. Every time you thought you’d got rid of him, he’d come back, ever more determined to set down roots. I guess you could say cancer became a part of our family. Homework was often done lying across my mum’s hospital bed while she was having chemo. And let cancer get in the way of Corrie and Eastenders? Gosh no, we’d bring the portable telly in and try our hardest to get a TV signal.
We all just made the best of a bad situation, and my parents tried to keep life as normal as they could for three school-age children. My mum worked throughout those six years, and as an adult I now know just how much pain she must have been in, but she never showed us. It must have been heart-breaking for her.
It’s the 3rd most common illness in the UK after all, but deaths are down 30%. So people are listening, but just not enough of you.
The importance of early detection
And that’s why I wholeheartedly support the work that cancer charities do, because I want more people to understand how to spot the signs. For my mum it was blood in her poo. But that’s not the only sign. They include: a change in bowel habits, unexplained weight loss, tiredness for no reason, and tummy pain. I can’t even begin to tell you how important it is that people know all of them, and keep an eye out for them. It’s the 3rd most common illness in the UK after all, but deaths are down 30%. So people are listening, but just not enough of you.
There’s a good chance that I’ll end up with bowel cancer because of how young my mum was when she was diagnosed, but the fear factor has been lessened because I’ve educated myself on the signs, I have regular screening, and I’ve had genetic testing done. So if I do get it, they’ll find it early, thus saving my life. And there’s a certain level of peace that knowledge brings.