A MUM whose cancer was dismissed as "wedding stress" says she was only diagnosed after her bowel burst.
Katharine McAuley, 36, says she was "fobbed off" by her GP who claimed her symptoms were irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The mum-of-three, from Oxford, found out last month she had a 5cm tumour in her bowel and another in her liver.
Katharine, who now lives in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, was floored by the diagnosis – having only recently given birth to healthy baby daughter Rosie.
She's now juggling chemotherapy whilst caring for her five-month-old little girl.
Katharine told Belfast Live:"I had sepsis and was unaware of this. I was breastfeeding my newborn with sepsis.
"I got married and on my wedding day I had bowel cancer and never knew. It is all still a shock to me."
The nail salon owner says her symptoms started around two years ago and went to see her doctor.
She said: "She [the doctor] told me my symptoms were down to stress as I had recently lost my dad and then was planning my wedding."
Katharine underwent a camera scan, but it missed her tumour by an inch.
It was only when her bowel burst six weeks ago that she given a CT scan and diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer.
She had an operation to remove the tumour in her bowel but will need further surgery to cut out the mass in her liver.
Katharine has chosen to speak out about her cancer journey to raise awareness of the disease.
Posting on Instagram, where she is documenting her fight, she said: "Six weeks in from finding out that I’ve got that dreaded C word I finally feel like maybe it should be addressed if only to bring awareness to people I know,to my friends or even friends of friends.
"Bowel cancer DOES NOT just affect old people (screening starts at 60). It also affects people like me at 36 who have just had babies and have not complained to the doctors enough or followed up on symptoms."
At the moment, Brits are subject to a postcode lottery, with those living in Scotland screened from 50.
Meanwhile, south of the border in England, and in Wales and Northern Ireland, those tests aren't offered until 60 – resulting in thousands of needless deaths.
That's why The Sun's No Time 2 Lose campaign called for a simple poo test offered to everyone, every two years, from their 50th birthday.
Last summer after pressure from The Sun and campaigners, the Government agreed to lower the screening age, but a date for roll out has yet to be confirmed.
'Back with a vengeance'
Katharine admitted that she doesn't feel she visited the doctor enough or pushed for tests, however she doesn't "blame herself".
She says that when she fell pregnant with Rosie last year, her symptoms went away – something she says isn't that uncommon.
But once she'd given birth in February, her lack of appetite and weight loss "came back with a vengeance".
Writing on Instagram, she said: "I blamed it on lack of sleep, being run down from the breastfeeding, looking after the family and in general just having a baby.
"I mean I could hardly have cancer or anything sinister when I just carried beautiful healthy baby full term?!"
She added that she was sharing her story to encourage others to trust their instincts and act on their symptoms, no matter how big or small.
After the operation to remove her tumour, the McAuleys went on a 5 star holiday to Greece to spend some quality time together.
Katharine said: "Highly recommend going on a 5* star all inclusive holiday after having a 5cm tumour removed from your bowel.
"Booked this holiday a few days after finding out I also have a tumour in my liver and chemotherapy would start in a few weeks."
Alongside a picture of herself on a boat, she added: "I always wanted to rent out a speedboat like a Kardashian but let me tell you this was more Greek fishing boat – it only went 60 miles per hour.
"I’m definitely gonna use this C crap to just do what I want and not care what other people think…the big C definitely makes you value your life and just bloody get on with it."
Katharine said her cancer is treatable – but it would have been easier to treat if it was picked up sooner.
Despite that, she says she's going to put up "one hell of a fight".
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