Peterborough bowel cancer survivor’s seven year fight to enter remission

A bowel cancer survivor whose dad died suddenly from the same condition is fronting a new national campaign.

Sunday, 2nd June 2019, 1:00 pm
Neil Barker (centre) in an advert for the campaign. Copyright: Brendan Foster Photography

Neil Barker from Werrington was diagnosed with stage 2 bowel cancer in 2003 aged 41 and had surgery to have his colon, rectum and anus removed, as well as six months of chemotherapy, before going into remission in 2010.

But in the same year Neil’s recently retired dad Des passed away - just five weeks after being diagnosed with the same condition, which is the UK’s second biggest cancer killer.

“It was very sad. Having just retired you don’t expect that within six months,” recalled Neil.

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Neil Barker (centre) in an advert for the campaign. Copyright: Brendan Foster Photography

As for his own fight against bowel cancer, Neil said it had been an extremely tough time for wife Maggie and daughter Helen, who was 11 at the time.

What made it even harder was being diagnosed with a brain tumour and needing surgery to have it removed a few months after finding out he had bowel cancer.

“For my wife it was extremely traumatic,” said Neil. “Friends and relatives were shocked as well.”

Neil was fortunate to catch his bowel cancer when he did, as a consultant highlighted that the condition has the same symptoms as Crohn’s Disease, which he also has. A colonoscopy and CT scan revealed the disease and allowed for earlier treatment.

Now, the 56-year-old is one of the faces of Bowel Cancer UK’s national fundraising challenge Step Up for 30 which encourages people to get sponsored to do 30 minutes of physical activity every day in June and reduce their chances of getting bowel cancer.

Neil now has a permanent stoma - a surgical opening that diverts bodily waste to a colostomy bag. He said the main symptoms for bowel cancer are: bleeding in the rectum or in your poo, a change of bowel habit, unexplained weight loss, extreme tiredness for no reason and a pain/lump in the stomach.

To join Step up for 30, visit: https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/support-us/fundraise/step-up-for-30/.