THE BLOG

It's Time to Stop Bowel Cancer

05/08/2015 20:22 BST | Updated 05/08/2016 10:59 BST

`Rich is more than happy to stay in touch and should you wish to use me as a case study in the future we're more than happy to help raise awareness. It's so pointless, so any good that can come from this hopeless situation should be grasped.'

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This is one of the final private messages I received from lovely Charlotte Kitley. She died of bowel cancer a few days afterwards in September 2014, having fulfilled her deeply felt wish of seeing her little girl go to school and son turn six.

On the day of her death her husband Richard, published her final blog 'And So There Must Come an End'. It is a beautiful blog, full of sadness but love of life and in it she urges us all to live life to the full.

"I would love to still be with you, laughing, eating my weird and latest miracle food, chatting rubbish 'Charleyisms'. I have so much life I still want to live, but know I won't have that. I want to be there for my friends as they move with their lives, see my children grow up and become old and grumpy with Rich. All these things are to be denied of me.

But, they are not to be denied of you. So, in my absence, please, please, enjoy life. Take it by both hands, grab it, shake it and believe in every second of it. Adore your children. You have literally no idea how blessed you are to shout at them in the morning to hurry up and clean their teeth."

The response was remarkable as it quickly went viral. It turned out to be Huffington Post's most shared blog of 2014. What's even more remarkable was how Charlotte and Richard had planned how they wanted to turn their awful situation into something positive. Charlotte was a survivor and this was her final two fingers up to bowel cancer.

She was determined to help raise awareness and to support Bowel Cancer UK. In those dark days just after her death, Richard and I spoke often as he responded to the good wishes and launched their fundraising page.

Unfortunately their story is not a one off - there have been other bowel cancer patients who have grabbed public attention - Stephen Sutton, Lynda Bellingham, Kate Gross, Rosi Kirker-Miller, Amy Watts. Their experiences tugging at heart strings across the country and there have been many more that have tugged at mine.

I find that desire to reach out to others, so beautifully epitomized by Charlotte and Richard, to try to stop other families going through the same thing, totally moving and know I am truly blessed to meet such remarkable people. Yet I'd rather it stopped. There is, after all, nothing good about cancer. I don't want people to become well known because they faced death and died well - I want them to be able to enjoy life and to live well.

Bowel cancer should in fact be a good news story, it can be cured but early diagnosis is key. Unfortunately that can be difficult to achieve for a number of reasons including: awareness is far too low; symptoms can be vague; screening is age limited yet bowel cancer is not; the current bowel screening test is too insensitive and so missing cancers. We also don't know enough about who is at most risk except in broad terms. Even where we do know who is at high risk, the UK is failing to put the right screening surveillance programmes in place to protect people against cancers arrival.

At Bowel Cancer UK we want to stop bowel cancer for good and are tired of waiting for answers or change to happen, so we are taking action. We plan to pump prime research that addresses the unknowns, that enables us to champion early diagnosis and ensure that the best treatment and care is available to everyone who needs it. After all, it is simply not acceptable that you are more likely to die in some parts of the UK than others, or that the UK has a 15% higher mortality rate from cancer than the best countries in Europe.

But this requires money and so we have to fundraise. After 25 years working in charities, I'm frequently surprised by how tough it is to raise funds for bowel cancer, despite the fact it is the UK's second biggest cancer killer claiming over 16,000 lives a year - more than either breast or prostate cancer. Yet I am determined to keep trying to change that, which is why I'm joining Bowel Cancer UK's fabulous supporters by also taking on a new fundraising challenge - a trek in Brazil in late September.

We can stop bowel cancer, it isn't a pipe dream, but we need your help right now so please sponsor me or take on a fundraising challenge of your own. You don't need to abseil down the Orbit or run the London Marathon, it could be as simple as inviting your friends or work colleagues around for a fundraising coffee morning, just please do something.

Sadly empathy and compassion are not enough on their own, people are dying needlessly and its only action that will change that.

To sponsor me please go to www.justgiving.com/deborahalsina4 or text STOP68 £5/£10 to 70070.

To find out more about how you can get involved please visit www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/get-involved

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