A young woman died of bowel cancer just months after she was told people her age rarely die of the disease.
Ten months after doctors overlooked initial warning signs due to her age, Amelia Grace died.
Amelia, who was known as Millie, died in October 2021. During her struggle with the illness, she was determined to bust the myth that bowel cancer only affected older people, and now her mum Therese Grace carries on that fight in her memory.
Therese, who lives in Cornwall, said Amelia would experience bleeding and blood in her stool during her adult life.
She continuously went back and forth to the doctor's for blood tests and to have stool samples looked at, but Therese says she was never tested for bowel cancer.
Following pains in her stomach, the 24-year-old underwent a series of scans which resulted in the doctor finding cysts on her ovaries. Amelia was due to have an operation in January 2020 to remove the cysts, however, it was cancelled.
Amelia's mum said her symptoms got progressively worse as “she wasn’t eating all the time".
She said: "She was tired. Her stomach was swollen. She could feel lumps and bumps on her stomach.”
But it wasn’t until December 2020 when Amelia had surgery to remove the cysts that the doctors found she had stage four bowel cancer which had spread to her liver and ovaries.
Recently there has been an increase in awareness of bowel cancer following BBC presenter Dame Deborah James’ campaign to highlight the disease. Like other types of cancer, early detection of bowel cancer improves the chance of survival, however, screenings are only offered to men and woman aged 60 to 74 in the UK.
“Millie asked, 'will I die?' and the doctor replied, 'quite possibly, yes' but in the same breath said, 'but it’s rare in someone your age'”, Therese recalled from her daughter’s first consultant appointment.
Amelia was in the Marie Curie hospice for a few weeks before she died in her mum’s arms.
Recalling the day, Therese said: “Those last couple of hours she was getting more tired. And then, about an hour before she died, they got me a bed and I got into bed next to her and I just put her into my arms and I was just talking to her. I was telling her how much I loved her and how proud I was of her. It was awful but it was lovely.”
Therese feels like Amelia’s death could have been prevented if it was not for the presumption that she was too young to have bowel cancer.
“Check your poo," she urged. "You can now go to the doctors at any age and ask for a FIT test to rule out bowel cancer. Be assertive, you aren’t too young. That’s what Millie’s legacy is, that’s what she wanted – for young people not to be fobbed off like she was.”
Therese is raising money for the fight against bowel cancer through a JustGiving campaign. You can support her here.