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Faces of Blue: Deborah Ward-Johnstone

By March 22, 2018Faces of Blue
Deborah Ward-Johnstone waving

I was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 29, after a long fight to get my general practitioner to take me seriously. Subsequently, I was diagnosed with hypermethylation of the MLH1 promoter gene—Lynch syndrome. De novo case; not inherited Deborah Ward-Johnstone Olympicsat all, just unlucky.

It sounds weird to say, but colon cancer has had a good effect in my life; realizing what’s valuable in life pushes me to create adventures and live life to the fullest. I lost the ability to over-worry what others thought of me and think I am a better person for having a reality check in life.

Cancer will never own you. Even for those friends I have lost along the way, they owned themselves and did so with pride and honor. So take opportunities, make opportunities and get checked out!

I listened to my body and knew something was wrong. I went to my general practitioner and he was not that worried since I was only 28 years old at the time. Every week, I felt a little worse and once a month I was back at the doctor, crying, in pain, presenting what I now know to be red flag symptoms. Eleven months later, I was on the operating table after a colonoscopy identified a tumor in the bowel. It had stuck to the bladder wall, so keyhole turned open and I had a resection and partial bladder removal.

I could remember coming round, hearing someone say, “We went open surgery in the end.” And I just through, “Damn! This is gonna hurt!”

Deborah Ward-Johnstone cheerleadingSurgery was good for my mental state; “it” was out. I was an unusual case, at the time, and the colorectal team was very engaged with me. Six months of chemotherapy followed, giving me the best chance of eliminating any nasties! Tough but bearable for me; I was lucky.

When I became more fit, I decided to write the bucket list and start putting it to action. I booked the opportunity to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro as my first challenge, and it was amazing! Since then, I have trekked through Peru and crossed the Sahara on foot. Next is open water swimming. In the United Kingdom, the temperature is the challenge.

I was referred to the genetics team and they found that I had Lynch Syndrome. The strain and the fact that neither of my parents have it makes me particularly unusual but at least Hugh Jackman made genetic mutations cool!

I made great “bum-bandit” friends along my journey and have organized and supported various events for awareness. It has never owned me, but it has given me the kick up the bum to find the beauty in every single day.


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