Crawford Bell (69) was asked to come out of semi-retirement in spring 2011 to do some gigs with Nathan Carter and His Band when the symptoms emerged.
In Lisburn 71 people are diagnosed and 27 die from bowel cancer every year. To mark Bowel Cancer Awareness Month in April, Action Cancer is encouraging men and women across Northern Ireland to seek advice immediately if they experience any signs and symptoms of the disease.
“It started off just a gig every fortnight or so but as Nathan’s popularity grew I was asked to do more gigs,” said Crawford. “These took me all over Ireland. It was during this time that I began to notice my toilet habits changing: I had to go more often. This had never been a problem to me before so I began to realise that something wasn’t quite right.
“I am not one to run to the doctor very often, I finally decided in August 2011 to bite the bullet and go to my doctor.
“He recognised the signs and did some tests. Initially nothing was detected but he referred me to Lagan Valley Hospital for further tests.”
Crawford hoped for the best but feared the worst as he waited six weeks for the results.
“In the meantime the Nathan Carter Band had asked if I would take on a full-time job with them. Because of other projects I had to reluctantly turn down their offer,” said Crawford.
“Six weeks later it was confirmed. I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Four weeks later I was taken into hospital for my operation when they had to remove 50% of my large bowel. I was told that they had to take out more than they had initially planned.
“I kept thinking that if I had gone to the doctors when I first noticed the symptoms four months earlier, perhaps surgery wouldn’t have been so severe. My reluctance to acknowledge that there was a real problem made the surgeon’s job that much more difficult.
“Following my surgery I unfortunately got an infection in my wound which delayed my chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment. I found the chemotherapy pretty difficult and had some side effects including blistering on my feet, tingling in my hands and blurred vision. There were some down days but with the love and support of my wife, my family and all my friends plus a lot of prayer, I got through.
“It’s been nearly eighteen months since my operation and I’m doing well. I’m getting back to how I was before my diagnosis and I am making music again.
“I believe that my reluctance to go to the doctor when I first experienced the symptoms meant the cancer had advanced, the treatment required was then more severe, and meant a longer recovery period.
“I would advise everyone who receives the bowel cancer screening home test to take part and importantly, if you have any symptoms to go and get them checked out immediately. I learnt the hard way but it’s definitely better to feel foolish than to feel sorry.”
For more information log onto their website www.actioncancer.org