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Rectal Cancer Or Piles? My Experience

Updated on September 10, 2019
louiseelcross profile image

Could it be cancer or piles? This article is about my own experience with rectal cancer, treatments and learning I received.

Could It Be Cancer?

If you are sat thinking, 'Could it be cancer?', then maybe it is time for you to make an appointment with a doctor and get yourself checked out.

I was diagnosed with stage 3 rectal cancer after being told by a doctor that I had haemorrhoids (piles) I am sharing my personal journey and what I have learnt about life through this experience, in the hopes that it inspires another who is sat with their worries and fears that they might have rectal or bowel cancer, to seek medical advice.

I want to reach out to those who are ignoring changes in their toilet habits and hoping the problem will just go away, like I hoped my problem would go away. I want to reach out to those who are too scared or embarrassed to be examined by a doctor, like I was too embarrassed to be examined.

In April of 2018 I had noticed specks of bright red blood in the toilet bowl and on my tissue. Family members told me not to worry as the blood was most likely coming from internal haemorrhoids.(piles) 'They run in the family', I was told. I tried to ignore the bleeding from my so called internal piles but quietly worried that I could have cancer. And then there was a change in my normal bowel habits. I started experiencing constipation, a bloated stomach, nausea and I was noticing that there was blood in my stools as well as the toilet bowl.

I spent a lot of time sat on the toilet losing blood and although I worried that I could have cancer, I did not seek help. I did not seek help because like so many others, I felt too embarrassed to be examined. Also, I did not want to be a nuisance to my doctor or anyone else. I was scared! I remember thinking and trying to convince myself that I could not have cancer because I was putting weight on. One of the symptoms of cancer is sudden weight loss, not weight gain.

I have other conditions such as Fibromyalgia, Fatigue, Systematic Lupus, Rheumatoid Osteoarthritis, Osteoarthritis and other conditions and I told myself that the changes in toilet habits were probably linked to these conditions. I did not want to bother anyone with more problems.

Please do not assume that any changes to your toilet habits or any other health changes are linked to something else. Don't feel that you are wasting your time or your doctors time because you are not wasting their time. You are worthy of the help you need and the peace of mine that you are depriving yourself of.

Haemorroids, Piles or Cancer?

In September 2018 I made an appointment to see the doctor because I was still losing blood every time I went to the toilet. When I finally allowed myself to be examined, I was reassured by the doctor that I had nothing to worry about, just internal piles. I took the prescription for Haemorrhoid cream with a smile on my face and with a sense of relief. I remember thinking that I could have saved myself all that worry and stress if I had gone to the doctor sooner, 'Lesson learnt', I thought to myself. The examination was over and done with quickly so there was nothing to be embarrassed about.

The cream the doctor gave me for piles had a hard plastic nozzle attached to the tube. I was suppose to insert the nozzle up my backside and squeeze the tube to get the cream internally. I could not insert the nozzle up my backside because it was too painful to insert, therefore I could not get the pile treatment to the affected area. I did not want to bother my doctor with piles so I hoped they would get better without treatment.

Many people experience haemorrhoids or piles. They are blood vessels that are felt inside or around the anus. They feel like small round lumps and sometimes are felt hanging out of the anal canal. They can be uncomfortable making it difficult to sit down, they can be itchy and they can bleed.

Whoever is reading this and have bleeding from the rectum and changes in toilet habits and have not made an appointment to see a Dr, please do it now. The sooner the better. Any bleeding from the rectum needs investigating by a doctor, not you, your friend or family member.

Remember this, bleeding from the rectum is the common symptom shared by cancer and piles.

Diagnosis of Rectum Cancer

In November 2018, I was still bleeding from my back passage and went back to the doctor to admit that I could not use the nozzle of the cream she had prescribed months earlier. I was asking for a different form of pile cream. She did not examine me but immediately referred me to the cancer clinic. I had an appointment with the cancer doctor by the end of the week. The consultant examined me and said that he found a lump that was not piles. He said he was sorry to tell me but he was 99.9 percent sure that the lump he had found was cancer. A short time later I had an MRI, CT scan, blood tests, Endoscopy, colonoscopy and biopsy and stage 3 rectal cancer was diagnosed.

I was stunned and absolutely terrified when the doctor confirmed that I had cancer. My first question's to the doctor were, 'Am I going to die?!' 'Have I left it too late?!' was all I could ask. After that everything was a bit of a blur. I remember little of what I was told that day other that I would receive chemotherapy, radiotherapy and then surgery where my bowel would be removed and a Stoma bag fitted. A Stoma bag collects faeces or urine from the body and it is worn on the outside of the body. I was told that because of the position of the tumour in my rectum, I had no chance of a reversal surgery to re-attached my bowel which can be done as a result of bowel cancer. The bowel can be removed on a temporary basis to allow cancer to be treated and then after treatment the bowel can be reattached..

The consultant suggested that I go home and tell my family that I had cancer. He said that I needed the support. It was a heartbreaking experience having to tell my children and family and seeing and feeling their fear.

Later that day when I was left alone, I fell to my knees and sobbed, screamed and begged God to help me. I felt like my life was over and I was terrified. Fear got a hold of me. I felt absolutely totally alone and it was not a nice place be or to feel. I remember, I felt angry because I did not understand why I had been given my life in the first place. 'Was that it?! I shouted, even though no one was listening.

In the midst of my grief and anguish, I heard my inner calming voice soothingly telling me that there is no one, outside myself that can make this better for me. I suddenly understood that I was the only one that can make this better, by loving myself, and allowing the healing love of others into my life. I suddenly felt a true genuine love for all and for me it was a definite life changing moment in more ways than one.

All cried out and exhausted, I felt at peace. I felt as if I was surrounded by a loving force and it felt good. After my face to face with fear, I suddenly felt more love and understanding about life than I have ever had in my life. I had looked fear in the face and as a result, was able to let go of my fears of unworthiness and fear of not being loved and accepted. I understood that I was love and I was surrounded by love.

It is perfectly normal to go through a wide range of emotions when given a scary diagnosis. It is a scary experience and that needs to be acknowledged. Its okay to feel emotional or angry whatever it is you feel. It is good reach out and talk to someone if you are experiencing inner distress. You do not have to be alone. People care. If you have no one to talk to, or no one that you want to talk to, write your experience down.

Journal how you feel. I journal every day about the good and the bad that happens in my life and it helps me. Journaling prevents me from bottling things up inside.


Colorectal Cancer Treatment Planning

Colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer, colon cancer, or rectal cancer, is any cancer that affects the colon and the rectum.

I was introduced to the Colorectal team and the Consultant Oncologist. I was also introduced to the Macmillan nurses who offer information, practical advice and support for those diagnosed with cancer.

I was also shown around the cancer unit where I would be receiving radiotherapy and introduced to some of the staff who would have dealings with me through the next few weeks as I received treatment at the unit.

I signed a Patient Agreement To Systemic Anti-Cancer Therapy. I would have 25 treatments of Radiotherapy where an external beam would be aimed directly at the rectum for a few minutes a day from Monday to Friday. On Saturday and Sunday I could rest my body and start again on the Monday.

I was advised of the side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and given anti-sickness and anti-diarrhoea tablets. I was bombarded with a mound of paperwork and advice leaflets to read which I tried to read but remember little of what I was told or read.

Two small tattoo's were put on my backside and acted as a guide for the beams. Having the tattoo's did not hurt at all I am glad to say.

Chemotherapy treatment was in tablet form and to be taken orally twice a day.

Chemotherapy is a drug used to treat cancer by killing cancer cells. The aim of chemotherapy medication is to stop cancer cells from reproducing and spreading to other parts of the body.

I had my first dose of Chemotherapy in the form of a tablet and my first radiotherapy on Monday 7thJanuary 2019. There was no discomfort or ill affects and radiotherapy did not hurt at all.

Radiotherapy Machine


My True Experience Of Rectal Cancer Treatment

Treatment of radiation therapy was not painful so I was grateful for that. I did feel exhausted and sometimes sick but other than that I felt that treatment was not so bad. Then on day nine of treatment the Radiologist asked me how I was coping with the pain, and asked what pain relief I was using. 'What pain?' I asked. I smiled at her and told her I was okay and that I was not experiencing too much pain. She stopped mid-step and looked at me with a worried look in her eyes. 'Has everything that is going to happen during your treatment been explained to you because things are going to get much harder for you.', she said. She advised me to put moisturiser around my back passage and take salt baths. I felt ok so did not feel the need for cream or salt baths. Less than 24 hours later I was sat in salt baths and trying to put cream on radiation burns around my anus and between my legs.

I experienced intense burning and itching in my anus and vagina that was too painful to scratch. The skin between my legs was too painful to touch but glowed with an intense itch. Some of the skin between my legs peeled off and it was difficult to walk. I woke up to wet sheets in the morning because there was a clear liquid seeping from my sore skin. I could not sit down without the use of a donut shaped cushion to protect my sensitive areas. I had to take the cushion everywhere that I would need to sit down.

I was afraid to go to the toilet because it hurt to open my bowel or bladder. When I did go to the toilet I could only cry out with pain. I later found out that radiation burns had caused damage to my skin between my legs, my anus and was the cause of my inability to pass urine without a scream of pain. The consultant prescribed liquid morphine to take when I needed to go to the toilet and that was an enormous help.

It was painful condition but not everyone has a bad reaction to radiotherapy. You could have a mild reaction as explained in the information you are given in the form of leaflets, but, If you have a bad reaction to your skin like I did, do not feel afraid to reach out and ask for help.

February 8th 2019 was the last radiation treatment day. As I rang that bell I was surrounded by my four children and four grandchildren and I felt grateful and blessed.

I was truly exhausted and looked it. I felt it to be a gruelling and difficult journey but I survived it and for that I was grateful. I went home on that day and slept for the next three weeks as the treatment in my body carried on working to kill cancer cells. I lost my appetite and just over a stone in weight and I felt exhausted. Soon after that time, I felt that I was on my way to recovery.

The End Of Radiotherapy Ringing The Bell

Ringing the bell for the end of treatment
Ringing the bell for the end of treatment

Do Not Give Up

June 2019. I saw the consultant today to discuss further tests that I had recently. He smiled at me and told me it was good news. He explained that the tumour had shrunk to the point of they are not seeing the tumour. He arranged for an internal examination under general anaesthetic and eventually that was a positive outcome too with no sign of the tumour.

I was explained all the risk figures of rectal cancer reoccurring and secondary cancer sights showing up. I was told I could either have my bowel removed and a Stoma fitted to take away the risk of cancer coming back or I could watch and wait. This was good news as earlier I had been told that I would need surgery to remove the bowel.

I have decided against surgery at this time because I feel well and I have a new zest for life. I feel like I have been given another chance to get out in the world and do what I love to do and not just dream about it. I want to write about all the things I have learnt throughout my life and share my knowledge with others. Also I have learnt to worry less and focus more on future happy events about to happen because nothing else matters.

It can be a terrifying experience to be diagnosed with cancer and if you or someone you know has been diagnosed, stay positive. Try not to sink into misery and fearful thoughts because if you do that you will scare yourself. Consciously change what you are thinking about and create nicer thoughts and feelings when you catch yourself having a negative scary thought.

Life is meant to be enjoyed so decide what You enjoy doing, and do it. Please do not take life for granted and waste time. Set some goals and aim for them. Focus on your goals and activities that make you smile and feel good.

If it is spending time with your family or friends then organise it. And if you do not have a family, reach out to others. Join a club, do whatever you need to do so you can enjoy yourself. Think about the things that would make you feel good, something that will make you feel positive. Take a walk, a hike, a holiday or something but do something. Just keeping thinking forward and Do Not Give Up!



I learnt from this experience that my life's journey and all its experiences had been a search of the meaning and understanding of self love and self acceptance. Life is about love, self love, the love of others, the love of creatures great and small. But without self-love there is no true ability to let love in to our lives.

I think we are all in search of giving or receiving love. Love is as important to our spiritual growth as the air that gives us life, and we all need to grow.

It is true that when you look fear in the face you gain courage, strength and confidence to achieve anything. I had a fear of loving myself because I was taught by my parents that I was stupid, not worthy of being loved. I believed all this and developed a negative self-worth, low self esteem and no confidence and I did not understand how to love myself. Over the years I learnt to love myself more than I had done in the past and my life changed for the better but not to the extent I felt love and the importance of love after the diagnosis.

Being diagnosed with rectal cancer took away my fear of self love. Learning to truly love myself, changed my life dramatically. Loving myself meant that no more would I accept that I was not good enough to live the life of my choosing. I found that many of us are stuck in life, living a life of programmed routine and not enjoying the experience. A diagnosis of cancer can jolt you out of being stuck.

I realised with my diagnosis that I had not achieved all my dreams and goals and now I might not get the chance to. I was angry that I had wasted a lot of life just doing nothing much. Hurt that not loving myself had such a negative impact on my experience of life.

I have dreams and goals that I am worthy of receiving that I am working towards. I have an exciting future ahead of me and I am grateful for that.

If I could give one message to the world it would be, love yourself and share that love with the world and if you don't know how to love yourself, learn to. Do not leave life until you have been given bad news or diagnosis like I did, to understand about self love. I am fortunate and grateful that I got the help I needed before it was too late.

Activities that Helped Me Cope

I use positive affirmations and repeat to myself as often as possible I am health, wealth and success. Research has found that if you repeat something to yourself over and over, even if you know what you are repeating is not true, the subconscious will eventually accept it as the truth and your life will reflect that. Find an affirmation you are comfortable with and whenever you feel bad, repeat silently to yourself your chosen affirmation.

I try and walk a few minutes a day because I find the fresh air and nature relaxing. If you are having treatment right now, try walking even if it is just for a few minutes. Take a few deep breathes of fresh air and exhale any negative emotion. Focusing on your breathing will quieten down the mind and it will help you relax

Find guided visualisation videos on YouTube. Do whatever it takes to keep yourself feeling nice and relaxed. Try to keep your imagination busy by thinking about what makes you feel good about yourself? Close your eyes now and just imagine what life would look like and feel like if you were doing something right now that you love doing.

You have to be able to imagine and dream about how you would like your life to look and feel, before you can experience it in reality. Keep imagining and enjoy the feelings that come as a result of imagining. Remember that, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.” Napoleon Hill Think and Grow Rich

Remember, you are worthy no matter what you have been told by others.

Read inspirational books. Feel inspired.

Be kind to yourself. Pamper yourself even if it is just a long soak in the bath.

Eat well and take care of your body.

Accept your emotions and speak to someone or a trusted love one about how you feel.

Write about how you feel in a journal. Treat yourself to a nice journal and planner like the one below that I use. It will help you to plan and focus on your goals. Think of your goals often, focus on life, something you will enjoy aiming for. Write them down.

Keep a gratitude diary or journal. Find as many things in your day that you were grateful for and write them down.

Root out your negative beliefs and change them to positive beliefs.

Watch inspirational and motivational videos on YouTube.

Spend time surrounded by uplifting people or doing what you enjoy doing.

Try meditation, yoga or some other way of deep relaxation.

Listen to music and dance if you feel like it.

Most of all, LOVE YOURSELF!

Self-Love Affirmations

Where I Am Today

Today I am in a good place. I had MRI last Friday so I am waiting the results to find out if there has been any spread of cancer.

Because of the diagnosis I am in a better place than ever. I love and believe in myself. I have found the courage to trust in myself and to do the things in life I want to do, that I love to do.

I found my purpose in life and that was to learn to truly love myself and share that knowledge of how I did it with others. I want to reach out to those who feel unloved, send them love and remind them that they too can start from self love. We are loved and are worthy of love, no matter who has told us differently.

I feel positive about myself and my future goals and I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to share my story. My message to anyone that reads this is please love yourself enough to take care of yourself.

I will update as the results come in.


Test results are in and I have been given the all clear. I am truly grateful for this news.

For all those who suspect they might have bowel cancer, please take a test. Stay positive. I have documented the start of this journey with cancer and now I have been given the all clear, so remember that and stay positive.

For those who have been diagnosed with Rectal cancer, I urge you to set goals for when treatment has finished. Write down your goals and read them daily. Imagine daily how it would feel to achieve your goals.

Do not leave the creation of goals until you get a diagnosis like I did. Life is short so enjoy it. Love yourself, love others, do what you love to do and be happy. The reason you are experiencing life is to love, feel loved and be happy.

I send love to all who are going through cancer or think they might have cancer.


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    • louiseelcross profile imageAUTHOR

      Louise Elcross 

      4 weeks ago from UK

      Thanks Susan. I hope I have not scared you in anyway. I had a bad reaction to treatment but thankfully not everyone does have a bad reaction. I hope all goes well for you.

    • profile image


      4 weeks ago

      I have been diagnosed with rectal cancer had 2 treatments of chemo.... with chemo medication waiting for radiation therapy... thank you for sharing your story

    • louiseelcross profile imageAUTHOR

      Louise Elcross 

      5 weeks ago from UK

      Thanks Carolyn. My intention is to encourage others to at least have a bowel test. Especially those with symptoms like I had. Thanks for reading.

    • Carolyn M Fields profile image

      Carolyn Fields 

      5 weeks ago from South Dakota, USA

      Thank you for sharing. I'm sure this will help others face their fears.


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