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Cardiff runner back in 5k race after bowel cancer diagnosis

Image caption, Paul Scanlon thought he would never run again after being diagnosed with colon cancer

  • Author, Caitlin Parr
  • Role, BBC news

A runner diagnosed with bowel cancer has completed his first race since getting an ostomy two years ago.

Paul Scanlon, from Cardiff, was training for the 2022 London Marathon when he noticed blood in his poo.

In April that year, an endoscopy confirmed that the 54-year-old was living with two large tumors and had stage three bowel cancer.

Now the 54-year-old has completed the Whitchurch 5k in Cardiff – his first race since his diagnosis.

Paul said not being active during his treatment was a huge challenge.

“Running takes you to a place that no other place can take you.

“It can be running, walking or a bit of a jog – it takes your mind off things and it clears your head. It sets you up for the day, or if you run in the evening it sets you up for the night ahead.

“It’s such a pressure release, and it was incredibly difficult to have that so cruelly ripped from under your feet.”

Image caption, Paul and his friends took on the Whitchurch 5k for his first race after diagnosis

Paul told Radio Wales Breakfast that he had initially refused to have a stoma fitted because after the operation he “couldn’t see that there was a life worth living”.

He added: “I made the decision to enjoy the amount of time I had left on Earth and enjoy it to the fullest – and that was exactly what I set out to do.”

But Paul said he changed his mind after receiving counseling at Maggie’s Cardiff cancer care centre.

“I say the surgeons and surgical teams saved my life – but Maggie’s in Cardiff certainly played their part… the guidance and support I received from the men’s group and from psychologists put my mind in a completely different mindset without that I even know.”

What are the symptoms of colon cancer?

  • Changes in your poop, such as softer poop, diarrhea or constipation that are unusual for you
  • Needing to poo more or less often than normal for you
  • Blood in your poop, which may look red or black
  • Bleeding from your buttocks
  • Often the feeling that you have to poop, even though you have just gone to the toilet
  • Stomach ache
  • A lump in your abdomen
  • Bloated feeling
  • Lose weight without trying
  • Feeling very tired for no reason
Image caption, Paul’s sisters made a bear from their shirt for him to hold during his treatment

Paul said Maggie’s team talked him through ‘the big block’ about having an ostomy – how a colostomy bag is fitted to the stomach.

But he said he changed his mind after realizing that “you’re only going to be doing it once or twice a day for 15 minutes.”

Paul added: “It helped that I talked through it and knew I wouldn’t be thinking about my stoma 24/7 like I thought I would.”

“That was the reason I decided not to do it,” he said.

Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in Britain and the fourth most common cancer in Wales.

Nearly 2,300 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in Wales every year and more than 900 people die from the disease.

Cancer Research Wales says that historically people over 70 were more likely to be diagnosed, but there has been an increase in the number of middle-aged people being diagnosed, especially in those under 50.

The charity said earlier testing would lead to an earlier diagnosis, but more than 7,000 people in Wales were waiting for a colonoscopy – and 50% of them had been waiting more than 14 weeks.

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