In June 2019, a doctor in Spain dismissed her symptoms as menopause and it was only six months later that she found out it was stage 4 bowel cancer.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 22, 2022. It has since been updated.
A woman diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer that had spread to her ovaries and her liver, was given three months to live in January 2020. Instead, she is celebrating, having received a new lease on life. Long before Caroline Guy was given an official cancer diagnosis, the 56-year-old knew something was wrong. "I felt sluggish, I just didn't feel right. My stomach was swollen," she told Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. However, in June 2019, a doctor in Spain dismissed her symptoms as menopause. "I'd googled my symptoms and I actually asked him outright if I had bowel cancer and he said no," Guy revealed.
Caroline Guy was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer, which had spread to her ovaries and liver https://t.co/D5M8n5Mrwi— BBC East Midlands (@bbcemt) June 14, 2022
It was only when she visited her husband, Adam, in Saudi Arabia in January 2020 that she and her family came to know the truth. "I was in pain walking, I looked seven months pregnant and I woke up one night and was violently sick. I just felt horrendous," Guy recalled. She was rushed to the hospital, where after four days of X-rays, scans, MRI and blood tests, a surgeon informed her family that she had three to four months to live. "When I saw their faces, I thought this is not good. My daughter couldn't look at me. I couldn't take it in. I just said 'How long have I had it? And 'am I going to die?'" she recalled.
"Mum with bowel cancer and given three months to live rings cancer free bell at Nottingham hospital" - thank you for covering this big moment and for helping us to share Caroline's story @ITVCentral @nancycoleITV https://t.co/2OEzBwpANV— Nottingham University Hospitals 😷 (@nottmhospitals) June 20, 2022
"They didn't tell me that at the time," Guy said of the devastating timeline her family received. "He was still picking our daughter up off the floor—they had to give her oxygen. I can laugh now, but it must've been like something from a "Carry On" film." She was then referred to the head of oncology, who told her to stay positive and to steer clear of Google. Classed as inoperable and incurable, Guy started a course of chemotherapy and in September, traveled back to Nottingham to see her daughter. Not long after her arrival, she caught COVID-19 and had to isolate herself.
"It was scary, the thought of coming back to England, worrying if I would still get my treatment because I'd done so well in Saudi, but I had to come back. I had to see my family," Guy shared. Once recovered, Guy resumed cancer treatment at Nottingham City Hospital, where scans revealed that the tumor had reduced in size. Despite the good news, upon hearing she now had two years to live, Guy was determined to beat the disease. "I was heartbroken, I didn't want to hear a timescale, I was doing really well. I continued with the fortnightly chemotherapy and Cituximae. I had a pump fitted and I'd go away and have chemotherapy for 48 hours at home," she said.
Even as the pandemic raged on, Guy made sure to never miss an appointment. "It's been a long hard process, but I have never had my treatment stopped. And the staff were absolutely marvelous—they were under tremendous pressure. Nurses that should've finished were still there hours after their shift had ended because they can't just walk away when machines are bleeping and patients need attention," she shared. Soon, scans revealed that the chemotherapy had helped shrink all the tumors to a stage where she could have surgery, albeit a risky one.
"I said yes, please. The only way you can beat bowel cancer is with surgery to remove the primary cause. I knew that if I did that, cancer might come back, but if it did come back, I would deal with it," Guy said. She was transferred to the Queen's Medical Centre, where surgeons Alastair Simpson and David Humes removed part of her bowel and performed a full hysterectomy. "The first person I saw when I woke up was the surgeon, who said it had been a really successful operation. He rang my husband himself and spoke to him," Guy recalled. When she returned to the hospital for her test results, they were clear.
"The surgeon looked at me and said you've got no cancer. I said 'are you sure? I just couldn't believe it. It's a miracle," she said. "It cost £110,000 (approximately $134,842) for my treatment in Saudi—my husband's retirement fund—because I didn't have insurance—I got all my documents through a week after I was diagnosed with cancer. The money it costs for private care—even though it was amazing—it doesn't touch what I've had done here with the NHS, and the NHS gets such a bashing. I've been treated with so much compassion. I'm in awe of these people and the colorectal nurse Kimberley was fantastic."
Caroline Guy, who is cancer-free after being given three months to live in January 2020, returned to City Hospital today to ring the bell to signify the end of her treatment. And it was an emotional time all-round. Read Caroline's story here: https://t.co/Fq9tLResOE #cancer #NHS pic.twitter.com/MJNq676KoH— Nottingham University Hospitals 😷 (@nottmhospitals) June 17, 2022
"For the surgeons to say 'we've got it all, you're cancer free'—how can I thank them? How can I thank the NHS? Some of the staff are like family. The number of people who have been involved with my care and they have all been wonderful," Guy added. She is now in remission for 5 years and will be monitored every three months by her oncologist. Speaking of Guy's miraculous recovery, her surgeon Alastair Simpson said: "Caroline had extensive chemotherapy and surgical resection of multiple organs, which is physically demanding but also presents a significant psychological burden and carries the potential for serious complications. Nottingham has an advanced cancer service that is able to coordinate this care and support her through the process. However, I must emphasize how important Caroline's positive outlook and bravery have contributed to the successful outcome in her case."