Darina Eyre has had cancer three times – in her bowel, liver and lung.
The 62-year-old grandmother of one said the relief was ‘indescribable’ when she was given the all-clear almost two decades after her first diagnosis.
Darina said: ‘After the last surgery, we were all relieved but were very sceptical.
‘I can’t even describe the relief when the doctors said “Darina we are discharging you.”
‘Finally, after 19 years, I was able to ring my family and tell them I have been discharged completely.
‘They’ve said, touch wood, that the cancer won’t return.’
Darina, of Barrowford, Lancashire was initially diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2004, with doctors telling her the symptoms were because she had a ‘bad diet’ at first.
The cancer, she was later told, had advanced to stage three, which means it may have started to spread outside the bowel.
She had surgery and chemotherapy to treat it.
Her family were furious it had taken so long for Darina’s symptoms to be taken seriously by her GP.
Darina explained: ‘As a family, we were so heartbroken and angry when I was first diagnosed because I had been to the doctors every few months.
‘They just said I had a bad diet, but it wasn’t, because I never had a bad diet.
‘I wasn’t eating how I am now, which is very mindfully, but I was still eating well.’
Darina is now always urging people not to ignore any symptoms of bowel cancer and to go to the doctor as soon as possible.
Bowel cancer symptoms include a change in your poo, blood in your poo, stomach pain and bloating. Some of these symptoms are very common and can be caused by other conditions, such as IBS, but it’s worth going to your GP anyway if you start experiencing them.
NHS symptoms of bowel cancer
- Changes in your poo, such as having softer poo, diarrhoea or constipation that is not usual for you
- Needing to poo more or less often than usual for you
- Blood in your poo, which may look red or black
- Bleeding from your bottom
- Often feeling like you need to poo, even if you’ve just been to the toilet
- Tummy pain
- Losing weight without trying
- Feeling very tired for no reason
Doctors told her that, as the cancerous tumour in her bowel had burst, the cancer had spread to her bloodstream and could return.
‘They do the surgery, which is tough, but it’s okay in the end if it’s not a late diagnosis,’ Darina said.
Four years later, the mum-of-two was then diagnosed with liver cancer. It was so advanced, doctors said she may only have three to six months to live.
Doctors then found a cancerous lump in Darina’s lung just weeks before her daughter, also called Darina, was due to give birth. Once again, she needed surgery.
Darina remembers a difficult Christmas trying to put a brave face on — she didn’t tell her children she had lung cancer until later.
She said: ‘I was diagnosed on December 5 so shortly before Christmas and my daughter was expecting my granddaughter in three weeks.
‘My daughter had been gifted some little shoes, and she asked me to hang them on the Christmas tree.
‘That was the most difficult moment of my life because my hands were absolutely clammy and shaking, and I didn’t know how I was going to do it.
‘I was worried that I would have to tell her how poorly I was, but I managed to hang it on the Christmas tree.’
The birth of her granddaughter, Olivia Grace, made Darina determined to stick around.
She said: ‘When my granddaughter was born and I was holding her, I swore that I would be here for her until I’m an old granny.
‘I was determined.’
Darina is also grateful for Pendleside Hospice, who she said do ‘an absolutely fantastic job’ to care for their patients.
A Macmillan nurse was the one who suggested that Darina start visiting the hospice.
‘But when I heard the word “hospice”, I absolutely panicked,’ Darina said. ‘That was the one time that I was really panicking.’
Yet it became a place of comfort for her. She recalls: ‘I kept going there for coffee and to talk to people and to have therapy.
‘They do an absolutely fantastic job and when I was there, I wasn’t reminded about what was going on.
‘I will be forever grateful for the days that I spent there.’
Darina’s cancer was monitored for 19 years after that first diagnosis until she was finally told she was free of the disease.
Olivia Grace is now 14 and has a great relationship with her grandmother.
‘The relationship I have with her now is absolutely amazing,’ says the gran. ‘She calls me her partner in crime, and we do a lot of things like go on holidays together.
‘Every time I look at her, she’s a reminder that everything is in our head, and we can decide to keep fighting.’
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