NHS worker diagnosed with bowel cancer after initially ‘being told it was IBS’

An NHS employee states that he was diagnosed with bowel cancer after initially being told that the symptoms were those of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

John Clegg, 37, was told that he had stage four bowel cancer that had spread to his liver in February 2021.

Mr Clegg, from Nottingham, has now been told by medics that he will most likely not survive until the end of the year and he believes that there was “no urgency” by his GPs to properly recognize the signs and symptoms.

Mr Clegg, who worked as a medical secretary at Lings Bar Hospital, fell ill and noticed a change in his IBS symptoms in late 2019, just two months after he married his wife Claire, Nottinghamshire Live reports.

Having always been able to manage his condition since being diagnosed in 2005, he suspected that something was wrong, saying that it had got to a point where he was losing blood 10 to 15 times a day.

Mr Clegg said he went to his practice, Castle Healthcare in West Bridgford, more than 20 times between 2019 and 2021.

“It was really, really bloody stools. Some of it was just blood, filling the pan,” he recalled. “Each time I was looking progressively worse, I was losing weight and looking like a skeleton.” Mr Clegg said he was at first told it was his IBS from him flaring up and eventually inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

“Because of my age they just never checked for bowel cancer. At some point you’ve got to turn round and say ‘something’s not right here’. There was no urgency with the doctors. The earlier you catch these things the greater your chances of survival and the easier the fight is.”

John celebrating his 37th birthday

After pushing for a colonoscopy in January 2021, Mr Clegg was given the devastating news that he had cancer in his bowels, liver and lymph nodes on February 5. “It was like being sideswiped by a Mack truck,” he described. “I managed to stay quite strong but inside it was difficult, it was one of the hardest, if not the hardest days of my life.

“I don’t know how I managed to stay as strong as I did. But my wife and my dad broke down into pieces – inside I was right there with them but in those situations you’ve got to stay strong and positive.”

Doctors said that if he did not start treatment he would be dead within 10 weeks. Mr Clegg initially responded well to chemotherapy, however he was told by Christmas that he had stopped working. In March this year, he was told it was very unlikely he would see 2023.

He is now undergoing chemotherapy that has a 25 per cent chance of working, but hopes to raise funds to help pay for private treatment, likely abroad. Mr Clegg has so far raised £4,000 of his £42,500 goal on GoFundMe, which would pay for one round of proton beam therapy, a form of radiation treatment.

“Every new day I wake up is a gift, I owe it to myself and my family to keep fighting as long as it takes. I’m still here and I’m still kicking so until the day comes, I’m going to continue to keep fighting.”

John married Claire in August 2019, two months before he fell ill
John married Claire in August 2019, two months before he fell ill

Wife, Claire, said her husband had been “really strong” throughout his battle with the disease. The 31-year-old, who gave up her job from her to become his full time carer from her, said the pair rarely go out due to his vulnerability from him.

“We’ve missed so many family events and parties,” she said. “Just normal life – going to the pub, meeting up with friends, going out for Valentine’s Day and to the cinema. We don’t do any of that anymore. We still want our honeymoon.”

Jack Eyre, manager at Castle Healthcare Practice, said he could not comment on Mr Clegg’s case due to ‘reasons of confidentiality’. He said: “We are sorry to hear of his diagnosis of him and wish him all the best in respect to his ongoing treatment of him.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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