ITV News Meridian reporter Kit Bradshaw is urging people to be aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer after he sadly lost his husband, Laurence Wilson, to the disease.
Laurence was the most gorgeous, kind, gentle and generous man. He was my boyfriend for nine years and my husband for 250 days. He died of bowel cancer last year at the age of 31.
He first noticed unusual symptoms several years earlier. It began with a bloating sensation, combined with an on-off pain in the side of his tummy, which he described as feeling like a stitch. His GP initially told him it was irritable bowel syndrome.
It took several more trips to the doctors before he was put on the waiting list for a colonoscopy. Because of his age, this wasn’t treated as urgent, and six more months went by. During that time he started noticing other symptoms, including spending more time on the toilet.
In March 2019, aged 27, Laurence was told he had Stage 3 bowel cancer. He had surgery to remove a large tumour and then had to undergo months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
The doctors eventually believed they’d got rid of the cancer but crushingly it returned in 2021, and had spread to Laurence’s bones. It was pretty aggressive and didn’t appear to be responding to targeted chemo or radio treatment.
We brought our wedding forward and married in October 2021. It was the happiest day of my life. I was so proud to call Laurence my husband. He’ll always be my husband. Those 250 days of marriage that we shared will always be precious to me.
One of Laurence’s wishes was that we would work as a family to raise money for cancer charities and awareness of the disease among younger people.
There’s still a stereotype that it only affects older people, but sadly that’s not the case and those under 60 aren’t included in national screening programmes, so it’s even more important that you’re aware of the symptoms.
According to Bowel Cancer UK, the symptoms can include:
Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
A persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit
Unexplained weight loss
Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
A pain or lump in your tummy
If you experience any of these, please talk to your GP as soon as possible. There's also information and advice on the NHS website.
Last weekend, around 60 of Laurence’s family and friends came together to walk 24 miles along the East Sussex coast from Beachy Head, in Eastbourne, to Brighton’s Palace Pier.
We called it ‘For the Love of Laurence’, and hope to do a similar fundraiser every year for cancer charities. This year’s event raised more than £9,000 for good causes. It was an emotional and special day, especially because Laurence loved the countryside, and especially the coast, so much.
Laurence really admired all the work of Dame Deborah James. He followed her Bowelbabe posts on social media avidly, and even shared treatment stories with her over messenger. Unlike Deborah, Laurence was quite private during his treatment, but I know he wanted me to do all I could to get the message out. I hope I’m doing him proud.
Watch Kit’s full interview discussing his late husband Laurence with Matt Teale and Sangeeta Bhabra.
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK with someone diagnosed every 15 minutes. It’s also the second biggest cancer killer with someone dying from the disease every 30 minutes.
But it doesn’t need to be this way, as it is treatable and curable, especially when diagnosed early. I hope sharing Laurence’s story can help raise awareness of bowel cancer among young people, and hopefully save someone’s life.
Find out more about bowel cancer and the No Butts campaign on the ITV Lorraine website.