Nicola on coping with challenges of bowel cancer diagnosis

Friday 10 June 2022

Maggie's Lanarkshire

In 2019, at the age of 32, Nicola was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer. A really tough time followed, and over the next few months Nicola faced chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments as well as surgery to remove a tumour from her bowel.

Diagnosis and bowel cancer treatment

It took a while for me to get a diagnosis. I had initially been treated for irritable bowel syndrome for a year, but I knew something was very wrong every time I went to the toilet, so I pushed to have a colonoscopy.

I finally got a diagnosis in April 2019 – when I found out I had a 10cm tumour in my bowel.

I’m normally a very chatty person but when the consultant told me they had found cancer and showed me a scan of my bowel, it took my breath away. 

It was completely shocking and the dynamic in the room completely changed.

I had to have chemotherapy and radiotherapy to reduce the tumour before an operation to remove it in September 2019. 

This was followed by further chemotherapy which finished in March 2020.

Pressures from every direction

At the time, I felt I was under so much pressure. 

The treatment had induced menopause and infertility and even though I already have one son, Max, who is eight - nothing can prepare you to think that you won’t be able to have any more children.

The treatment also left me having to wear a stoma, something that was just recently reversed.

Menopause, infertility and a stoma - it was life-changing and challenging for someone my age.

My wedding also had to be postponed because of the pandemic.

It was also difficult because even though I’d had chemotherapy, I’d kept all of my hair, so I didn’t look too bad to people on the outside, but on the inside, I was crumbling. 

I’ve had to accept that my body has changed physically, but I’d say that the mental effects of cancer – the intense worry and fear felt much more severe than the physical effects.

I felt like I was having a mini breakdown.

Maggie’s professional support

Maggie’s Lanarkshire is only one street away from where I live so it was easy for me to pop in.

I’d heard of Maggie’s before and I was a bit afraid to walk through the doors, to begin with as a young person with cancer, but I was so glad I did. 

From the minute I walked in it felt like home from home, the staff were so welcoming and compassionate and there was just such a lovely, tranquil atmosphere.

From then on, I knew that Maggie’s could give me the support I needed. 

I had one-to-one sessions with a clinical psychologist, and I also took part in relaxation including meditation, and exercise activities. 

Every session I had with Maggie’s helped me to feel better.

Maggie’s also helped me with benefits advice and completing a complicated PIP application - something I never had any experience with before as I had always worked full-time as a hairdresser.

Courses and support groups

I'm part of the young women's support group. I found it so helpful to be able to speak with other people who are in similar situations to me.

When I’m worried about something, I like to talk things through but when my partner Andy is worried, he tends to shut down and I found this difficult. 

I was hearing from others in the group who were in the same boat as me. That’s where the young women's support group helped. We support each other.

Kids' Day 

The staff have been wonderful – and as gentle and patient with Max as they have been with me.

Max really enjoyed doing arts and crafts with a few other children, and it was great to see him concentrate and enjoy that little bit of mindfulness and calm that goes with speaking to any of Maggie’s staff. It was time well spent.

Looking forward 

From feeling really broken and let down by my own body – I looked healthy on the outside but there was so much going on that was wrong on the inside. 

My cancer treatment helped me physically but mentally – Maggie’s saved my life.

Staff gave me the emotional and psychological support to cope and the tools to help me look forward to the future with Andy and Max.

We're here for you

We're here to support you, your family and friends through the emotional and practical challenges cancer can bring.

Come and see us at your nearest Maggie’s, you don't need an appointment, just come in.

Call us on 0300 123 180 or email us at

Last review: Jun 2023 | Next review: Jan 2024

More stories from our centres

Show More Stories

Get cancer support near you

To find your nearest Maggie's centre, enter your postcode or town below.

Sign up for our newsletter

Stay up to date with our news and fundraising by signing up for our newsletter.

Sign up