Fit and healthy mum, 37, had no idea symptoms were cancer


A fit and healthy woman was diagnosed with bowel cancer in her thirties, even though she thought her symptoms were irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Mum-of-two Nikita Williamson had an operation to remove a cancerous tumour, as well as her cervix, ovaries and uterus, in October 2023. She had already undergone six rounds of cancer treatment after a shock diagnosis revealed the bloating and bloody stools she’d been experiencing were not the result of piles or a chronic digestive condition.

The surgery was successful and Nikita is currently in a stage that specialists call ‘No Evidence of Disease’ (NED).

But she says she is in pain “constantly” and learning to live with a stoma. The 37-year-old admitted she is “changed forever”.

She said: “I’m still overcoming the hardest obstacle and that is learning who I am now – accepting the new normal,” Nikita, from Ipswich, told NeedToKnow.

“I will never be the person I was before diagnosis. I often get called inspirational due to the way I have handled my diagnosis, but I wish people understood how much of a fraud this makes me feel.

“To me, being inspirational is doing something you don’t have to do for no other reason than to give back and make the world a better place. I have got through tough treatments and surgeries, but that’s only because I didn’t have any choice. I will do anything to have more time with those I love.”

Nikita first noticed unusual bloating and blood in her stool in late 2022. Assuming her symptoms were the result of IBS and piles, she began cutting certain foods out of her diet and taking over-the-counter pain medication.

However, when she started to feel unwell at Christmas, her partner, Millie, persuaded her to speak to a doctor. She had a faecal immunochemical test (FIT) which came back abnormal and was later sent for a colonoscopy.

She said: “I was taken through to recovery, and a while later, the doctor and nurse returned. It was at this point the doctor told me, ‘It’s likely bowel cancer.’

“I will never forget how I felt when he said this. I felt completely numb but also relieved. Finally, I knew what was wrong, and I could deal with it.

“My partner was also in complete shock, but has been an incredible support from the moment I found out. I waited until I had my scans, and knew my staging and what treatments I would be having before I told my children.

“I have been very honest with them every step of the way and they know they can ask me anything they want and I will always try my best to answer.”

Nikita underwent six rounds of FOLFOXIRI, a cancer drug combination used to treat advanced or metastatic bowel cancer, between May and July 2023. She had an operation to remove the tumour, her cervix, ovaries, and uterus, and 102 lymph nodes in October.

She said: “During my first few cycles of chemotherapy, I didn’t feel too bad. It was around cycle three that things got a lot tougher. I was struggling with my mouth and developed oral thrush. Alongside this, I was struggling with my stomach and fluctuating between diarrhoea and constipation.

“I had to go to a different hospital for my surgery because it was more complicated than they expected. I was incredibly shocked when my surgeon told me this and that I would also be having my cervix, ovaries and uterus removed. This meant a further two-month wait. I felt I was back at square one.”

The surgery was successful but Nikita is still struggling with the mental and physical repercussions of her cancer and treatment. She said: “I live in pockets of time between appointments. I can relax and enjoy life, but I am changed forever.

“I not only have a stoma but I am also currently waiting for urodynamic testing as I have been unable to pass urine without catheterisation since the surgery. Prior to my diagnosis and treatments, I was an incredibly fit and healthy 36-year-old woman.

“While I am slowly building my fitness back up, I am in pain constantly. I continually struggle with fatigue and I rely heavily on various medications just to be able to get through the day.”

Despite everything, Nikita is focusing on the future. She added: “I am going to continue enjoying as many precious moments with my wonderful family and friends as I can, while I can. You don’t truly realise how loved and by whom you are loved until you go through something like this.

“Cancer has taught me to never take a single day for granted and to go for something if I want it because who knows what tomorrow holds.”

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