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Mum's stomach pain dismissed as IBS – but the truth was much more sinister


Andrea Badgie from Manchester

Andrea Badgie was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) after experiencing severe pain near her appendix (Image: MEN)

Andrea Badgie was just 31 when she started suffering from severe pains near her appendix, which she initially brushed off. After the loss of her mother in 2020, Andrea neglected her increasing discomfort and bouts of constipation for months.

Despite her symptoms, doctors dismissed her condition as IBS, prescribing antibiotics and laxatives. It wasn’t until six months later, following an emergency hospital dash, that Andrea received the devastating news: she had bowel cancer.

Now at 34, the Manchester-based mum is advocating for people to be vocal about their health concerns and to insist on being heard by medical professionals.

Andrea said: “When all of this began and I started becoming unwell, I had just lost my mum in the September,”

She admitted to delaying a doctor’s visit due to her grief, enduring prolonged pain and discomfort before seeking help.

Initially, Andrea’s GP attributed her symptoms to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in December, but subsequent treatments failed to alleviate her condition.

Further investigations, including ultrasound scans, failed to reveal any abnormalities, reports the Manchester Evening News.

Her GP then misdiagnosed her with a urinary tract infection (UTI), attributing it to the pain she felt. She said: “I went from IBS to having a UTI that travelled back into the liver, and that’s what was causing the pain, apparently.

“I was on antibiotics for months which made me feel alright, but as soon as I stopped taking them, it got worse again. I was back and forth to the doctor’s, that’s when I started losing weight and I had severe constipation.”

In May 2021, Andrea visited the A&E department for the first time, marking the beginning of at least six visits within a month. She said: “I was sick of going back and forth to the doctors.

“There I had a CT scan and an MRI scan which showed that I had extensive inflammation around my pelvis which they then diagnosed me with having a ruptured appendix.”

“I was severely constipated so they prescribed me laxatives but as I know now that my bowel was blocked, it began coming out the other end – I was vomiting everything up and couldn’t go to the toilet.”

“Throughout my A&E visits, I was put on a Nasogastric Tube (NG Tube) to help pump out whatever I couldn’t get rid of from my bowel.”

“I was put on a waiting list to have my appendix removed and they sent me home with more antibiotics. From that point, I brought myself back to A&E at least another five times.”

Reaching a breaking point, Andrea, having lost six stone in a few months, returned to A&E in June with severe abdominal pain. The mother revealed she hadn’t had a bowel movement in three weeks.

She recounted her harrowing experience: “I was in for a couple of days before I was taken for a CT scan which showed a small bowel obstruction. The mass was getting bigger but they were still saying this was due to a ruptured appendix.

“Within an hour of that scan, doctors told me they needed to take me for an emergency surgery to get a closer look at what’s going on. I didn’t know if I’d wake up with a stoma bag. Fortunately, I didn’t. I was in surgery for eight and a half hours.”

“They removed a part of my bowel and managed to join the two pieces back together. They removed my appendix and some lymph nodes but they were still telling me that everything seemed alright it just looked like an infection but they sent it off for a biopsy just to be on the safe side.”

Andrea spent three weeks in hospital recovering, admitting she “struggled” with the stay and felt like she “wasted away.”

Due to COVID restrictions, her time in the hospital was lonely with limited visitation, but the thought of her daughter gave her strength to endure until her discharge.

Post-discharge, Andrea found it odd to receive a letter out of the blue, making an appointment for her, which she described as “strange.”

The appointment led to a devastating revelation.

Upon arrival, the presence of her entire surgical team signalled to her that something was amiss: “When I walked in the room my whole surgical team was there. I knew something was wrong when I saw my doctors and other medical professionals I hadn’t seen before.”

“They talked me through my surgery and told me the results of the biopsy had come back and it was stage three bowel cancer.

“It was a real shock to me because obviously that whole time, I was being told it was something to do with my appendix. So I was really shocked, I burst out crying.”

Andrea underwent 12 weeks of preventative chemotherapy at the Christies, and doctors said they were confident they removed all of the mass in surgery.

The experience proved to be a mentally and physically draining experience on Andrea who is currently on surveillance to ensure her cancer doesn’t come back. She says anyone who has health concerns should remain persistent and fears what would have happened if she hadn’t.

“After I finished my chemo I did get the all-clear, I found out I was in the clear just before Christmas of 2022. I’m on surveillance now for five years, and then I will be completely discharged.”

“With everything that I went through, I can wholeheartedly say only you know your body, and if you think something is wrong or you’re not being heard, follow your gut.”

“It was stage three when they finally caught it, so if it would have gone on any longer who knows what would have happened – I could have been terminal and I may not have been here now.”

Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK, highlighted the prevalence and risks associated with the disease: “Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, with nearly 43,000 people diagnosed every year. It’s most common in people over 50, but younger people can still get the disease.”

She emphasised the importance of early detection: “The earlier bowel cancer is spotted, the more treatable it’s likely to be. In fact, more than 9 in 10 people survive bowel cancer when it’s diagnosed at the earliest stage.”

Edwards urged public awareness and action: “We are encouraging people to get to know the symptoms such as bleeding from your bottom, blood in your poo, a change in your pooing habits, losing weight, feeling very tired, and a pain or lump in your tummy. If you have any of these symptoms, or if you are worried about any changes that you notice, ask your GP for an at-home test.”

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