by Chris Derrick
A South Hams bowel cancer survivor joined a supercar rally to drive home a crucial message about the disease from Land’s End to Bristol.
Roger Stone spearheaded the Bowel Cancer West Grand Tour in the hope of saving lives by raising awareness of the symptoms.
He was joined on the rally by Mark Coleman, the surgeon who operated on him.
The supercars on the rally included a Lamborghini, a Porsche, a LaFerrari and a McLaren.
Roger said: “The rally was a real success. We visited seven hospitals and met doctors, nurses and patients. On Plymouth Hoe, we were joined by more supercars, and had three Ferraris, three Porsches and four Astons.
“It wasn’t so much about raising money, but about raising awareness. Touring with the supercars was a tremendous way to break the ice. The cars were a rallying point. When people stopped to look at the cars, we could then talk about bowel cancer.”
Bowel cancer is the second biggest killer of all cancers, but it is only the fourth most frequently diagnosed cancer. Diagnosis often happens too late to save lives. The charity hopes to make people aware of the symptoms, which include bleeding from the bowel, unusual bowel movements and tiredness.
Despite the NHS sending out free home-testing kits to people aged over 60, a survey found that only 42 per cent of those in the Westcountry sent a sample to the screening laboratory. Roger added: “The NHS is doing a terrific job in providing the raw materials for early diagnosis. It’s our job to actually make sure people do it.”
Roger, who lives in Loddiswell, was diagnosed with bowel cancer in August 2014, following a spell living and working in Asia.
“I’m a living testament of not what to do. I was very lucky,” Roger said.
“I returned to the UK in May 2014 and, with hindsight, the symptoms had been there for about nine months prior to my return. I didn’t immediately take action but, with the encouragement of my partner, I went to the doctor. I think if I’d stayed in Asia, I would have continued to rationalise my symptoms.”
He added: “The message is – don’t do what I did.
“I was fortunate, I made a full recovery, but with surgery, chemotherapy and I had to wear a colostomy bag for six months.”
Bowel Cancer West has said the good news is that the south west offers first-class bowel cancer treatment. And with early diagnosis and a healthy lifestyle, the chances of surviving the disease are greatly improved.
Roger said: “The two key messages are to use the screening tests the NHS provides and to exercise and eat well. There are significant problems with eating red meat and processed meats.
“You don’t have to cut them out, just put balance into consumption. We just need to be considerate of what we eat. Be prudent, be aware and eat lots of turmeric!
“A number of studies have shown that turmeric has anti-cancer effects, with particularly good effects on bowel cancer, breast cancer, stomach cancer and skin cancer cells.
“I’m so grateful to Mark for saving my life. He said to me recently that if it’d ignored my symptoms another few weeks, I probably wouldn’t be here today.”
Surgeon Mark Coleman said: “There is a very serious message we are trying to get over to people – that bowel cancer can be cured in over 90 per cent of cases if caught early.
“Anyone experiencing irregular bowel habits, bleeding from the bottom or abdominal pain or bloating should visit their GP.
“Likewise, anyone over the age of 60 who receives a free NHS test in the post, must not ignore this.”
Bowel Cancer West is looking to save more lives like Roger’s by raising awareness as well as committing to local research and extended training for GPs and nurses.
To find out how you can support the charity, visit www.bowelcancerwest.com.
Roger is also happy to talk about bowel cancer to local charities and groups. For further information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.