I think I’ve eaten too much. Then those four words changed my life

Nick Summerfield - bowel cancer at age 33

I called my GP, and was offered a same day appointment (Image: Nick Summerfield)

I never in a million years dreamed this would be my story. But it turns out that young people get colon cancer.

I first started feeling ‘off’ over Christmas 2020.

Like many of us, I work from my home (managing Airbnb rentals and vacation properties across the UK), enjoy working out at home, and occasionally traveling with a podcast.

For 360 days of the year, I stay fit and eat clean, but for a week during the Christmas period, I take a break and indulge in all the typical festive foods and treats.

That’s when I started noticing changes in my bowel habits.

As someone who is always beautifulas usual‘hours of work’ when going to the toilet and never had a problem before, this is really unusual for me. But I brushed it off and put it on my body adjusting to my annual overindulgence outburst.

But by the time January was in full swing, not only was I dealing with bowel changes, such as looser stools, constipation, and diarrhea, but I was also noticing blood in my poop.

After some encouragement from my mother, I called my GP, and was offered a same-day appointment.

My doctor and I talked about how it might just be something as common as a pile and a cream or medicine would solve the problem, agreeing it wasn’t going to be anything serious.

Nick Summerfield with his dog in the field

Due to Covid restrictions I had to attend the appointment alone (Image: Nick Summerfield)

‘Phew!’ I thought to myself.

But to take the usual precautions, my GP booked me in for a colonoscopy a few days later to check what was going on there.

The procedure is quite painful, and I don’t like being able to look at the TV screen showing the camera inside you.

But despite this, I never thought this would be the start of the cruel journey that cancer had prepared for me.

Due to Covid restrictions, I had to attend appointments alone, which was quite stressful.When the colonoscopy was done, I was taken back to my cubicle.

A nurse came in to draw blood followed by a second nurse who then came to ask if I was with anyone and suggested I get one of my parents to pick me up early and meet me at the reception.

I was asked to join the doctor in the family waiting room, so we were in a private room when I was told, “This looks like cancer.”

Nick Summerfield in the hospital

It was like I was in a terrible nightmare, and I was hoping someone would wake me up (Image: Nick Summerfield)

A million things immediately went through my head: ‘How can I have cancer? What will my friends and family say? What will the job say? What would my life be like now? I am 33 years old. Only old people get colon cancer, right?’


According to the British charity Worldwide Cancer Research, in 2020 2,700 people under the age of 50 were diagnosed with bowel cancer – and more than 700 died.

I underwent a CT scan, MRI, and sigmoidoscopy (a test that allows the doctor to examine the inside of the rectum and the part of the colon, closest to the rectum), and all biopsies confirmed that I had a cancerous tumor the size of a golf ball that had not only penetrated my intestinal wall but also almost stuck to my bladder.

It felt like I was in a terrible nightmare, and I hoped someone would wake me up.

Within hours, I went from Nick, a health-conscious, night-loving man who loved spending time with friends and family, to critical cancer patient Nick, who would be taking six weeks of courses each day. radiotherapy and oral chemotherapy.

Amazingly, the treatment was successful, and my tumor shrunk by more than a centimeter, which meant I was able to have surgery to remove the tumor. Results!

Even though the doctors and nurses prepared me well for the surgery, nothing workedI feel ready for what’s to come. I woke up with lots of scars, tubes, and machines stuck in me, and a brand new stoma bag, which I call ‘Enthusiastic’. There was a lot to accept, and I no longer felt like the body I woke up from belonged to me.

A young man shows pictures of his stomach after suffering from colon cancer.

I was told, ‘This looks like cancer’ (Image: Nick Summerfield)

I developed an infection after surgery and spent almost two weeks in the hospital; it gave me time to think about what I was going through. And how much more to come. I’m trying to understand the new me; having major surgery and not being able to go to the toilet properly makes you feel like a completely different person.

Pandemic restrictions at the time meant it was already difficult to physically meet friends and family. With the added layers of chemotherapy and a more diminished immune system, that means me Reallycan’t see anyone. It made the difficult time even more upsetting, but I focused all my energy on getting through my treatment.

Having to be in isolation for so long was really hard, especially because I used to be very active. Catching COVID-19 would put all my medications on hold, and with my severely compromised immune system, it could have a real impact on my health. The risk is too high.

The treatment left me very tired, so I spent a lot of time resting… I felt like I could be a panelist on Loose Women or part of the team on This Morning; I watch so much TV!

Further tests post-surgery found cancer cells in my veins, resulting in another six months of chemo – 14 days, seven days off, repeat. But eight grueling rounds of chemo went well, and I had my stoma removed in March 2022.

Nick Summerfield smiled

I can’t believe it. I have beaten cancer (Image: Nick Summerfield)

Then further scans showed worrying nodules in my lungs. I didn’t know if I wanted to experience all of this again, but the results came out on April 12th revealing it was nothing sinister and telling me I am now cancer free!

I can’t believe it. I have beaten cancer.

But not everyone is so lucky.

There is an alarming, yet common, misconception that bowel cancer is a disease of the elderly. That’s why I’m on a mission to raise awareness that bowel cancer can affect people of all ages and we should all get our poop checked.

Thanks to the generous ‘Curestarters’ of Worldwide Cancer Research – donors, supporters and fundraisers – this charity has supported more than £9 million worth of colon cancer research worldwide, including £4.5 million based on here in England, right on our doorstep.

Although colon cancer survival rates have increased dramatically in recent decades, it is still the second biggest cancer killer.

I now have full body scans every six months, as well as annual colonoscopies thereafter.

What are the main symptoms and signs of colon cancer?

The three main symptoms of bowel cancer are:

  • Blood in your poop that occurs constantly and for no apparent reason. Alternatively, it could be related to a change in your bowel habits.
  • Persistent changes in your bowel habits. As mentioned above, this usually represents having to have more bowel movements, and your stools may also become more watery.
  • Persistent lower abdominal pain, bloating or discomfort. It will always be caused by eating and can also go hand-in-hand with loss of appetite or unintentional weight loss.

Read more here

I definitely feel more emotional about everything I’ve been through now that I’m cancer free and have had time to stop and think. I’m very transactional about what I do: appointments, medication, restricted diet, sleep, and repeat.

But now that it’s over and I’ve had time to reflect, it’s all starting to sink in.

In a post-pandemic world, where we are all used to the ‘new normal’, I am also discovering what my ‘new normal’ is – post-cancer.

I’ve been able to start working out, and I’m used to actually going to the toilet again, seeing my friends, coming back to London in my flat, and I’m learning so much about myself every single day.

Together, we can end cancer. Join me, and thousands of others, and become a Curestarter today, by visiting: worldwidecancerresearch.org.

Nick is a supporter and Curestarter of the charity, Worldwide Cancer Research, which funds pioneering discovery research around the world to start new treatments for all types of cancer.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by sending an email to jess.austin@metro.co.uk.

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