Miranda Clayton 41-year-old mum-of-two was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2018 and since then she has undergone two operations that have left her cancer-free.
Miranda never thought it would happen to her.
Three years ago, the mum-of-two was sat in utter disbelief after the results of her colonoscopy were revealed to her.
A tumour in her colon, the large intestine, had been discovered, and it could be cancerous.
Miranda, of Nottingham, said: “I think I actually said ‘this is ridiculous, I can’t have cancer, I just ran a half marathon.’
“It hadn’t even occurred to me that it was a possibility for me.”
Then aged 38, Miranda, an Enforcement Officer for Nottingham City Council, ate the right food, exercised frequently, and regularly ran marathons.
She said: “Bowel cancer was something that I, unfairly, exclusively associated with being an unhealthy person’s or older person’s disease.
“Now I know more about the condition, following my diagnosis, I know it can affect a range of people, including people similar to me who eat and exercise well and yet they’ve had bowel cancer.”
Before Miranda’s diagnosis in May 2018, she suffered a range of symptoms, including chest infections, stomach bugs, weight loss and exhaustion.
Miranda turned to her GP, who ran a series of tests, before referring her to Ayan Banerjea, NUH Colorectal Consultant and surgeon, and she was booked in for a colonoscopy.
The colonoscopy in April 2018 revealed Miranda had a potentially cancerous tumour. Afterwards, MRI and CT scans followed, which provided NUH’s Colorectal Team with more details, as they decided on the most appropriate treatment for Miranda, such as surgery or chemotherapy.
The next month, following the scans, Miranda was diagnosed with a stage two Transverse Colon cancer, a cancer of the large intestine, with no evidence of spread to the local lymph nodes or other organs on her CT scan.
Having discussed her options with Mr Banerjea, Miranda underwent surgery at Queen’s Medical Centre, an extended right hemicolectomy under a general anaesthetic, where the cancerous part of her bowel was successfully removed.
Much to Miranda’s relief, post op histology tests did not show any cancer cells in any of her local lymph nodes or blood vessels, which meant she did not require chemotherapy.
She would still require follow up with colonoscopies, CT scans and blood tests over the next five years to ensure the cancer was not showing signs of coming back.
Miranda said: “It was at that point that me and my family felt like we could breathe a little bit again.”
Before Miranda could relax and think about the future with her husband Scott, 44, and two young children, Harry, six, and Penelope, four, a second colon cancer was discovered.
Four months after her surgery, a polyp, identified on Miranda’s initial colonoscopy, had turned cancerous.
Having developed two colon cancers under the age of 40, Miranda had serious discussions with Mr Banerjea and his team, including Charlotte Ryton, Colorectal Nurse Specialist.
Charlotte Ryton said: “The fear is, if you have developed two cancers at a young age there could be a genetic disposition and, if we do not remove most of the colon, there is a risk of a third cancer developing.”
During this time, Miranda was supported by her family and the Colorectal Team at NUH.
Miranda said: “I spoke to and still speak to Charlotte quite often. Whenever I need anything, she always has time to talk and she explains everything to me.”
Miranda also found support from cancer charity Maggie’s, who have a centre at City Hospital and provide emotional, psychological, and practical support.
Lizzie Morgan, Cancer Support Specialist at Maggie’s, said: “This may be talking to a cancer support specialist or benefits advisor, joining one of our groups or enjoying the calm space that Maggie’s has to offer to collect thoughts.
“Maggie’s is here for anyone affected by cancer, patients, families and children and can be accessed at any stage of the cancer diagnosis.
“Maggie’s makes the individual person feel valued and important. People are so much more than just a cancer diagnosis and at Maggie’s we prioritise supporting the whole person and those close to them. There is always someone here to listen.”
Miranda said: “Maggie’s were massively supportive, just amazing.
“Nothing like my cancer diagnosis had ever really happened to our family before, and I needed someone to talk to.
“I did some counselling with Maggie’s, took a well-being course on mindfulness, and just dropped in to see the staff there for a chat and a cup of tea.
“Earlier this year, as a thank you for everything they did for me, I ran 50 miles to fundraise for Maggie’s.”
Following lengthy discussions with NUH’s Colorectal Team, Miranda decided to undergo surgery that would remove most of her large bowel.
In November 2018, Miranda had the operation, a keyhole subtotal colectomy, again at the QMC, which left her cancer-free.
Following her successful surgeries, Miranda continues to have regular blood tests and every six months a flexible sigmoidoscopy, an investigation of the lower part of the bowel using a thin flexible camera.
Miranda said: “Mr Banerjea couldn’t have done more for me.
“The whole team at the hospital have been superb anytime I’ve been there.
“The doctors, nurses, consultants have all been so lovely all the way through – from all my initial appointments and then pre-op, and all my check-ups going forward.
“They really couldn’t have done more for me and I’ll be forever grateful.”
Miranda, who continues to stay active, ran 1,748 miles to fundraise for Bowel Cancer UK last year.
Miranda said: “Last year, I set myself a goal to run 874 miles, the distance from Land’s End to John O’Groats, between January and December.
“I ended up running double the number of miles I originally intended.
“Being able to keep running and stay active, it’s my way of giving the finger to bowel cancer and saying ‘I’m still here, I can do this.’
“My advice to anyone who is diagnosed with bowel cancer is to stay positive, take the advice from the doctors and nurses and make the most of the support that’s available.
“I think it’s so important to talk to people and discuss how you feel. You can acknowledge that being diagnosed with cancer is rubbish and you don’t have to put a smile on your face the whole time.
“For me, I found it easier to have those conservations with the counsellors at Maggie’s.”
Symptoms associated with bowel cancer include bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo, a persistent and unexplained chance in bowel habit, unexplained weight loss, extreme tiredness for no obvious reason, and a pain or lump in your tummy.
Charlotte Ryton said: My advice to anyone with any of the symptoms for bowel cancer would be book in with your GP as soon as possible, the symptoms may not be due to having a bowel cancer but if it is and we find it early the possibility of us being able to cure you is above 90%. Colon cancers found at a more advanced stage are more complicated to treat and the percent of cure starts to drop.”