Home Health Mum life turned upside-down after holiday tummy bug leads to 'heart-wrenching' discovery

Mum life turned upside-down after holiday tummy bug leads to 'heart-wrenching' discovery


A single mum who thought she had a holiday tummy bug was eventually diagnosed with inoperable stomach cancer. 

Donna Taylor, 45, had struggled with exhaustion and a loss of appetite while on her holidays in Turkiye and Cornwall last summer.

The mum-of-two had experienced heartburn, reflux and bloating for 18 months prior – but put the symptoms down to her age and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).   

But after returning from her holidays with her children – Tia, 21, and Rio, 16 – she was stuck in bed for three days with a sickness bug.

Donna and her doctor put it down to stress – but when her symptoms persisted she was referred to a cancer pathway.  And she then had an emergency endoscopy and a CT scan which found a huge mass on her abdomen.

Donna then had a laparoscopy and several biopsies and was diagnosed with stomach cancer in December 2024. 

She was told the cancer had spread to her peritoneum – a membrane surrounding your abdominal organs – and is now inoperable.

Donna, who worked in children’s services for ten years, from Sheffield, Yorkshire said: “It was heart-wrenching. Cancer takes so much from you. It’s tried to take away so much but it’s given me so much.”

“It’s about living with cancer. My time is so precious. There is a richness in my life.”

Donna started getting heartburn and reflux at the beginning of 2022. She said: “I was going through two bottles of Gaviscon a week.”

But after going to the doctor they were not worried and put it down to her age.  Donna has also struggled with IBS for 22 years so wasn’t worried when she started struggling with bloating.

In August last year, she went on two family holidays and started to notice a loss of appetite.  

She said: “I went from having three meals to two to one.  I felt really bloated.”

“I stopped wearing a bra for a year – it was really uncomfortable.  I felt exhausted beyond anything I’d ever experienced. “I started to lose weight. It was dropping off me.”

After coming back from her holiday, Donna was struck down with a bug.  She said: “I was in bed for three days with a sickness and diarrhoea bug.  I thought ‘This is not ok’.”

Donna continued to feel “really poorly” and after a follow-up appointment with her GP in November 2023 she was referred and taken for an emergency endoscopy.  A following CT scan confirmed a cancerous mass on her stomach.   

Donna said: “I didn’t think for a second that I was going to be told I had stomach cancer.”

Donna then had to wait to see the extent of her cancer and had a laparoscopy and biopsies.

She said: “It’s devastating. You are in no man’s land. You don’t know what you are facing. I went into a parallel universe. Life before November – that life had gone.”

A following CT scan confirmed a cancerous mass on her stomach.  Donna said: “I didn’t think for a second that I was going to be told I had stomach cancer.”

In December Donna was told the cancer had spread and it was inoperable. She had a stent fitted into her stomach in January 2024 to aid her digestion of food and medication before starting chemotherapy at the end of the month.

She said: “It’s been intense and gruelling. The chemotherapy is working. It’s shrinking the tumour.”

“I won’t have surgery as it’s spread. The chemotherapy is about me living a quality of life with cancer.”

Donna finishes her sixth cycle in June and will then have a break to enjoy the summer with her kids.

She’ll then have regular scans to check the growth of the tumour. She said: “I’ll just be wishing and praying that it remains behaving itself.”

Donna has remained positive by setting up her charity Dee’s Tummy Cancer Charity in collaboration with the Weston Park Cancer Charity and Cavendish Cancer Care. She has already raised £16.5k. 

Support Donna’s charity on Facebook and Just Giving 

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