Sgt Ian Trushell pictured with his wife

Wednesday 19th April 2023

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, here, Sgt Ian Trushell shares his personal Bowel Cancer journey.

Ian has served in the Royal Air Force as an ICT Tech for over 23 years and is based at RAF Boulmer. In 2022, aged 47, Ian was diagnosed with Stage 4 Bowel Cancer. To date, he has had 8 cycles of Chemotherapy in an effort to reduce the metastasis in his liver and in the origin of the Cancer, the Bowel.

Bowel Cancer facts

The facts surrounding Bowel Cancer (taken from Bowel Cancer UK)

  • Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and the second biggest cancer killer.
  • Nearly 43,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK.
  • Around 268,000 people living in the UK today have been diagnosed with bowel cancer.
  • More than nine out of ten new cases (94%) are diagnosed in people over the age of 50. More than 2,600 new cases are diagnosed each year in people under the age of 50.
  • 1 in 15 men and 1 in 18 women will be diagnosed with bowel cancer during their lifetime.

Ian comments:

“I’d been feeling unwell for a while, my fitness levels were dropping off,  but I just put it down to age, the stresses of daily life and a long-held belief that I was dairy intolerant, I’d just lay off the chocolate for a while and get on with life, but in Jul 22, following a bowel movement which revealed blood, I realised that I had to get it checked out. A Colonoscopy soon followed and the Doctor who carried out the procedure told me there and then that he had seen, in his opinion, a cancerous growth in the upper Bowel area, a biopsy was taken, and I was given the news on the 31 Aug 22 that it was Cancerous and had, unfortunately, spread to my liver. 

“That moment was surreal, nothing in life prepares you for this, it was like I was viewing my ordeal as an observer, the news didn’t sink in straight away. It was like I was living a bad dream – my wife and I took weeks to process the news. I remember holding her shortly afterwards, both breaking into tears and feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt for what I was and will put her through; but the hardest part was breaking the news to our three children. I remember watching my youngest son make himself lunch, I tried to picture what he would look like in 10 years’ time and realised that I may not have that opportunity. I broke down and walked away before he could notice. This is overwhelmingly the hardest part, knowing that I may not be there for my children in the future, to guide them through life and continue to be a father for them. They do now know about my illness, I took my dogs for a long walk and my wife, Sarah, broke the news to them. I try to show them that it’s not impacting me too much, it’s all I can do to give them a semblance of normality”.

Charitable support for RAF personnel

As Ian is a serving member of the RAF, he has access to the many Royal Air Force Charities available. These charities provide vital funding and welfare support. Ian was given a grant by the RAF Benevolent Fund to purchase a treadmill to aid his fitness levels in preparation for any potential surgery he may face. The RAF has also continued to give full pay and allowed him to claim money back on the cost of travelling to the hospital and parking fees.

Ian goes on to say:

“For all that has happened in the past six months, I am so grateful to be part of the RAF, the financial aspect of being diagnosed with Cancer is huge, so for civilians the burdens following diagnosis can be overwhelming and will only make a nightmare situation even worse. Being in the RAF means these worries can be secondary and that I can concentrate solely on my treatment. I still receive full pay, and while my Oncology team are entirely NHS, the Medical Centre and support network have been fantastic in accommodating my many needs, such as blood tests or just to chat about my ordeal. It feels contradictory to say that I consider myself fortunate, but being able to enjoy the beautiful scenery that Northumberland has to offer and having a fantastic welfare support system that the RAF offers has made my ordeal so much more tolerable and uncomplicated as can be.

“I simply do not know what the next few years will bring. My life is different now with different priorities. What would I say to someone who suspects something isn’t right with their body? Get it checked out ASAP. Cancer doesn’t discriminate, and it is estimated that 1 in 2 people will develop some form of Cancer in their lifetime. I didn’t think it would happen to me, I’ve ran marathons, never failed a RAFFT, never smoked, barely drink and always kept a healthy weight, but it did. It literally can happen to anyone.”

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