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Bowel cancer survivor running CDF 10K to raise awareness of disease

A WOMAN from Pontypridd will be running the Brecon Carreg CDF 10K, in the Welsh capital, to raise awareness of bowel cancer symptoms after she was diagnosed with the disease at just 33.

Rachel Reed had been experiencing pains in her stomach for several months but never thought this could be a symptom of something more sinister.

The 39-year-old, who works for the NHS, said: “For 18 months I was having pains in my stomach, an urgency to go to the toilet and always needed to sleep. It was getting progressively worse but I put it down to being tired at work or thought I might have IBS or reacting to dairy and gluten.

“I was fit and ate healthily, I was young, I didn’t smoke or drink and I thought I was doing all the right things to prevent cancer. It didn’t even cross my mind.”

It wasn’t until Rachel mentioned her symptoms to her dermatologist, who she was seeing for psoriasis, that they urged her to get it checked out and referred her to a gastroenterologist.

A colonoscopy in November 2018 showed she had a lesion on her appendix.

Rachel said: “At the time I just thought I’d need my appendix out and continued to go to work and live my life as normal. But when I saw my consultant two weeks later they told me it was cancer.

“I was in complete shock and in disbelief about what was going on. I just felt completely numb.”

Within two weeks, in December 2018, Rachel was having surgery to remove the tumour, which they discovered was stage 4. While they managed to remove the lesion, they had to remove two parts of her bowel, have a stent put in her bladder and needed a colostomy bag. She also had to have a hysterectomy in the process.

“I was pumped full of pain relief but still felt like I’d done a million sit-ups. I was in a lot of pain – too much to be emotional by what had happened,” she said.

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Rachel then had to endure six months of chemotherapy but a scan in September 2019 showed a reoccurrence of her cancer in her lung. That November she underwent lung wedge resection surgery to remove the small lesion, before then going through another six months of chemo.

Since then, she’s had scans every six months to a year which have thankfully been all clear. She now volunteers for Bowel Cancer UK who have helped her turn her diagnosis into something more positive by helping her raise awareness.

Rachel will now be taking on the Brecon Carreg CDF 10K, in the heart of the Welsh capital, on Sunday 1st September with her husband Dean, 40, to raise money for Bowel Cancer UK and Rowan Tree Cancer Care, who saw her very quickly after her diagnosis.

She said: “I was worried I wouldn’t reach my 40s, with stats showing that only 10% of those with stage 4 cancer have five more years, but I’m turning 40 next year. I’ve gone through something horrendous and very traumatic but want to use what I’ve experienced to prevent others from going through the same.

“I ran before my diagnosis and wanted to get back into running so I signed up for the CDF 10K. Going outside and moving my body really helps my mental health and it’s given me a good goal to work towards.”

Rachel now dedicates much of her time talking about and highlighting the symptoms of bowel cancer on her social media.

She added: “It’s important that people know that just because you’re young, it doesn’t mean you’re protected against cancer. You need to be aware of the symptoms and understand that if you catch it early you have a better chance of recovery.

“People don’t like talking about their bowels and digestive health but you can’t leave things like that to self-diagnosis. That was the most dangerous thing I could have done.”

Matt Newman, Chief Executive at event organisers Run 4 Wales, added: “The runners who take part in our events are such an inspiration and we’re always in awe of their reasons for taking part. Rachel is supporting such fantastic charities, and we hope that by sharing her story it will help raise awareness of the disease. She’s not let what she’s been through stop her and we can’t wait to cheer her over the finish line in September.”

To enter or find out more about the Brecon Carreg CDF 10K visit here or to donate to Rachel and Dean’s fundraising page click here.

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