LIFESTYLE

Woman Who Struggled With Stomach Cramps And Diarrhoea For 15 Years Diagnosed With Rare Incurable Cancer

19/11/2015 10:56 GMT | Updated 19/11/2015 11:00 GMT

A woman who endured hot flushes, stomach cramps and diarrhoea for more than a decade was astonished to discover that she had been living with a web of tumours the entire time.

Jo Green, who struggled on for 15 years, said being fit and active meant she coped with the symptoms and didn't complain to doctors as much as others might have.

The sales and marketing manager, from Poole in Dorset, was diagnosed with a rare and slow-growing cancer of the neuroendocrine system – which is made up of nerve and gland cells, spread throughout the body in organs including the stomach and bowel that make hormones and release them in to the blood - in 2011.

But by that time, she had been suffering with cramps for years.

cancer misdiagnosed

Jo Green

Green underwent surgery to remove a 'leathery web' of tumours that had grown on her bowel, bladder and reproductive organs. She also had a metre of her bowel surgically removed to get rid of the symptoms she'd had.

However, she has sadly been told that the cancer will grow back with time and cannot be cured.

Now 38, Green said: "I spent years in pain with cramps and diarrhoea. I'd be up all night and go in to work feeling tired.

"But because I was fit and healthy, I think I was able to deal with my symptoms for much longer than most people would.

"I was going to the gym six times a week. I did weights, yoga and ran.

"I maintained a certain quality of life. I ate really well, I didn't eat rubbish or drink. Perhaps that's why it took so long for me to be diagnosed. I was in good shape and got used to the pain.

"It must be difficult for doctors to know if something is wrong with someone when they present as fit and healthy as I seemed.

"Following my diagnosis I was cross with myself for dealing with my symptoms for so long.

"Doctors told me they'd have to act quickly to treat the cancer or I'd be dead within a few years. I was devastated."

Back when she was 19 and first experienced the string of symptoms that went on to plague her for another 15 years, Green initially believed she had irritable bowel syndrome.

But over time, her condition grew progressively worse. Four years ago, she even had to phone an ambulance because of the immense pain she was in and was hospitalised in Poole, where medics believed she had gastroenteritis.

"I would come home and sit down to watch a film and be asleep in ten minutes," she said.

"Maybe it was because my body was under so much stress with the condition."

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Then, in late 2011, following blood tests, biopsies and a colonoscopy, she was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer.

She said: "I was told that the hot flushes I'd had years earlier were a symptom of the cancer and I started to think about all the symptoms I'd had.

"I wondered how long the cancer had been growing and my surgeon estimated 15 years."

Green had an eight-hour operation to remove the tumours and a section of her bowel, leaving her with a nine-inch scar across her belly.

operation

Green after the operation

She then remained on a high dependency ward for three days following her surgery and in hospital for nine days overall.

Now, she continues to have regular injections, which she started taking immediately following her diagnosis, to help manage the symptoms of her cancer and slow down it's regrowth. She has yearly scans to check for other tumours.

She added: "I've been told that my cancer will regrow but I'm hoping that surgeons have bought me years by removing the tumours I had.

"I'm no longer in pain but I have to deal with the fact that I'm living with cancer.

"My surgeons removed all visible tumours but you can't expect to remove every one so I still have cancer."

On 25 October Green took part in the Morrisons Great South Run, running for charity PLANET - Pancreatic, Liver and Neuroendocrine Tumours - which raises money to research and treat these cancers.

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