A South London woman says doctors initially suspected Covid when she was feeling breathless before she found out that her symptoms were actually a sign of bowel cancer. Jade Colburn started to feel like she couldn’t catch her breath in July 2020 but thought it might be down to being stuck indoors during lockdown.
But the 26-year-old, from Sutton, was later diagnosed with bowel cancer. Now 28, she is speaking out after being given the all clear in a bid to warn others of the lesser known symptoms she experienced. The accountant told The Mirror: “I had right side colon cancer so my symptoms are very different to what you would expect. “I couldn’t catch my breath. I thought ‘maybe it’s the weather or being stuck indoors’ because it was in the first lockdown.
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(Image: Jade Colburn)
“I just couldn’t breathe. So I rang 111 and spoke to the doctor. They treated it like I might have Covid but I tested myself and I was not Covid positive.” Jade was told to go to A&E where she had blood tests and further checks, and it was confirmed she did not have Covid.
She then had an X-ray and a CT scan which found a bilateral pulmonary embolism, which occurs when a blood clot gets lodged in an artery in the lung, blocking blood flow to part of the lung. She had to be kept in hospital for a number of days and was put on blood thinners.
Jade’s condition stabilised until October 2020, but soon she noticed that even walking five minutes to the local shop would leave her breathless. “A five minute walk to the shop would take me 15 minutes and I would have to sit down twice,” she said.
By then she had the all clear for her clots, but Jade phoned her GP who suggested she could have a viral infection and again she was advised to get a Covid test. On New Year’s Eve she was in Morrisons with her mum when she felt her legs ‘turned to jelly’.
“I just collapsed,” she remembered. “My body didn’t feel like I controlled it. Mum rushed me back to St Helier hospital, they were brilliant with me.”
(Image: Jade Colburn)
Jade had more blood tests which showed her haemoglobin levels were very low. She spent New Year’s having a blood transfusion, with more tests showing she was anaemic. Jade stopped taking blood thinning tablets and instead was put on iron supplements.
Then around the end of June last year, she finally did test positive for Covid. She says she was struggling to breathe again and ended up back in hospital.
But when she was having scans, “a radiologist noticed something on my bowel, on the right side of my colon.” Jade was booked in for a colonoscopy but was feeling hesitant about the procedure.
“I had had so many tests, the amount of times I had been poked and prodded, I was getting fed up with it and that’s what was bringing me down.”
Jade said she broke down crying, but was comforted by a nurse who explained the procedure to her. She was supported through the whole process by Acting Assistant Service Manager for Endoscopy Kim West and Colorectal Clinical Nurse Specialist Paige Middleton, who encouraged her to have the colonoscopy.
A consultant recognised Jade had cancer, before the diagnosis was confirmed by biopsy results at the end of August 2021. “When I first got told I was tearful – the instinct is you think of death.
“But it was good to have a diagnosis of what caused me to be so ill.”
(Image: Jade Colburn)
Jade underwent surgery at the end of September and by mid October she was given the all clear. Following her ordeal, she wanted to raise awareness of her diagnosis in order to help others.
“A lot of people forget it can affect people from a younger age so my main message is if you do feel ill go and get checked out,” she said.
Jade shared her story at the end of April which is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, in a bid to highlight the illness as well as thank the Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust staff who supported her and, ultimately, saved her life.
Dr Ruth Charlton, Chief Medical Officer at Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “A huge thank you to Jade for bravely sharing her story and raising awareness of colon cancer, and I also commend our wonderful, dedicated staff for their support and professionalism.
“Most people with symptoms do not have bowel cancer, but it’s absolutely crucial to see a GP if you do. Like Jade, you may be scared, but if caught early, bowel cancer is treatable and curable. Please do get checked out.”
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