“We are living the good life” - businessman reflects on positive changes after bowel cancer diagnosis
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
'You start living when you are diagnosed with cancer.'
That is not the expression you expect to hear from someone who has stage four bowel cancer.
But business owner Lee Jones, 44, from Church Lane, Banham, near Attleborough, wants people to know that despite having the condition, he is living his best life with his wife Michelle, 41.
"You have this preconceived idea of what things will be like and that you will have a miserable existence.
"My wife and I have got a better life now compared to before the diagnosis," Mr Jones said.
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The businessman, who has lived in south Norfolk since April last year, was diagnosed on January 7, 2017 while living in York.
Before that he had been suffering with painful acid indigestion problems, sudden weight loss from 13 stone to nine stone, and problems while going to the toilet between mid-late 2016.
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After a series of tests, including a CT scan, chest x-ray, blood tests and MRI scan at York District Hospital, a stomach biopsy on December 29, 2016, revealed the cancerous cells.
It had started in his colon and had spread to his small intestine.
On the day of the diagnosis Mr Jones drove up from Norfolk, where his family live, to York with his wife.
He said: "The word cancer had been mentioned. It was starting to seem a bit serious.
"My thoughts were that 2016 was going to be my last Christmas so we came down to Norfolk to see family.
"I had the element of expectancy of cancer because the seed had been sown."
Reflecting on how he felt after receiving the news from his consultant, Mr Jones said: "You go to the end of your life when you are told you have cancer. You think you will be in the ground in six months time."
The 44-year-old, who has been married to Michelle for 18 years, said it took him a few days to "rationalise" the situation but admitted it was a "scary experience".
But he added: "Once you get to the stage of having treatment you suddenly feel safe that something is happening. You start living when you are diagnosed with cancer."
After his diagnosis his acid reflux was put down to a hiatus hernia, which is when part of the stomach moves into the chest.
That was unrelated to the cancer and was drained - it is now treated by medication and is no longer painful for Mr Jones.
His cancer was classed as treatable but not curable and he was initially given between two to three years to live by a doctor.
The tumour is inoperable because it is in the small intestine but Mr Jones said recent scans revealed it had not grown in size since diagnosis.
He is about to embark on his 58th cycle of targeted chemotherapy which takes place at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) and at home.
Despite this he has been able to work full-time on his web-based business, Free Motor Legal which offers free motor legal protection to 22,000 people across the UK.
Mr Jones put this down to the treatment he has received at both York District Hospital and the Colney Centre at the NNUH.
"The treatment has been fantastic. It is one of the things that has helped me make a fist at cancer and lead a completely ordinary life. I have never felt ill throughout this. I have never had pain.
He described his cancer as "background noise" but did accept he was lucky in terms of his experience with the disease.
Mr Jones praised the staff at the Colney Centre and added that medication and treatment for cancer was improving all the time which made him feel positive.
The businessman said the diagnosis made him appreciate the "silly little things in life".
He and his wife, who do not have children, renewed their wedding vows in June 2017 in Jersey in front of 12 members of their family.
The couple have also enjoyed visiting places around the world, including Lapland in Christmas 2017.
They also love tending to their allotment.
"We are two happy little souls. We are living the good life."
Mr Jones, who is now at a healthy weight, said he did not want to be defined by cancer and added the only time he thought about it was when he was approaching treatment or a friend or family asked him about it.
He urged people who had concerns to visit their GP and added: "If things don't improve go back. Don't worry about being a nuisance."
Bowel cancer symptoms and statistics
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK.
Almost 42,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK.
Bowel cancer can affect anyone of any age.
More than nine out of ten new cases (94pc) are diagnosed in people over the age of 50.
Nearly six out of ten cases (59pc) are diagnosed in people aged 70 or over.
More than 2,500 new cases are diagnosed each year in people under the age of 50.
Bowel cancer is treatable and curable especially if diagnosed early.
Signs of bowel cancer include:
Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo;
A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit;
Unexplained weight loss;
Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason;
A pain or lump in your tummy.
For more information visit www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk