The TV and stage actor Ben Richards says he initially dismissed his bowel cancer symptoms as a reaction to the spicy food he ate on a trip to India.
The actor who is currently starring in The Bodyguard in the West End was diagnosed with the disease in 2012 and after a year of treatment involving chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery he received the “all clear” a year later.
However, he initially put off going to the doctor, instead self-diagnosing” his symptoms, which included blood in his stools and changes in bowel movements, partly because he felt embarrassed about seeking medical advice.
“Being a typical bloke, I self-diagnosed. I was convinced it was due to the spicy food I’d been eating in India. Besides, I was pretty healthy. I was in good shape and looked after myself,” he wrote in The Mirror.
“[…] I wanted to do anything other than see a doctor, especially to have an examination that would be embarrassing.”
Doctors then discovered a 6cm long tumour in the 44-year old’s bowel and recommended he have radiotherapy to reduce the size of the tumour as well as taking chemotherapy tablets.
“Being told you have cancer is the strangest thing, it is impossible to explain,” he said. “But it’s kind of like a film, where everything slows down and all the sound becomes muffled. Your body just can’t tune in to what’s been said. You go into shock,” he wrote.
Describing his chemo as feeling like “the worst hangover you have ever had and times it by four”, Richards said he then had surgery to remove the tumour and half his bowe. He also said he regrets ignoring his symptoms for so long , saying “things might have been easier” if he hadn’t.
Looking forward now four years on, Richards, who previously starred in The Bill, Holby City and Footballer’s Wives, said he is anticipating the five-year mark which will mean he no longer has to have regular check ups.
“The blessing of having cancer is the way you see life afterwards. I appreciate my chances, have an amazing partner in Kirsty Duffy and an amazing daughter in Freja. I’m blessed but I know that now. I live life to the fullest for those who didn’t make it. Long may that continue,” he wrote.
Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the UK with around 40,000 new cases diagnosed every year. The NHS suggest one in every 20 people will develop it in the UK during their lifetime. The three main symptoms are blood in the stools, bowel changes and abdominal pain.
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