For more than a decade Jo Green endured hot flushes, cramps, and diarrhoea.
The symptoms began when she was 19 years old, but repeatedly doctors told the fitness enthusiast she was suffering irritable bowel syndrome.
But, 15 years later, Miss Green was rushed to hospital at the age of 34, suffering excruciating pain in her abdomen.
Tests revealed her body was ‘riddled’ with a rare and slow-growing cancer, that had left a ‘web’ of tumours throughout her neuroendocrine system – a series of nerve cells throughout the body.
Jo Green, 38, endured hot flushes, cramps and diarrhoea for more than a decade and was eventually told she had been living with a ‘web’ of tumours for 15 years
Miss Green was diagnosed with a rare and slow-growing cancer of the neuroendocrine system in 2011.
She underwent surgery to remove a web of tumours and had a metre of her bowel cut out, leaving a scar (right)
Miss Green underwent surgery to remove the ‘leathery web’ of tumours that had grown on her bowel, bladder and gynaecological area in 2011.
She also had a metre of her bowel surgically removed to stop the agonising cramps and diarrhoea.
But while the operation removed some of the cancer, she has been told it will grow back and is incurable.
Miss Green, now 38, believes being fit and active meant she was better able to cope with the symptoms, and this is why she was diagnosed with cancer so late.
For years she had been going to the gym to do weights, Yoga For Constipation: Beat Constipation or run – as well as avoiding junk food and alcohol.
She said: ‘Perhaps that’s why it took so long for me to be diagnosed.
I was in good shape and got used to the pain.
‘It must be difficult for doctors to know if something is wrong with someone when they present as fit and healthy as I seemed.
‘Following my diagnosis I was cross with myself for dealing with my symptoms for so long.
‘Doctors told me they’d have to act quickly to treat the cancer or I’d be dead within a few years.
I was devastated.’
Miss Green began suffering stomach problems when she was 19 – and doctors put it down to irritable bowel syndrome.
While the surgery removed all the visible tumours from her bowel and organs – she has been told the cancer will grow back and is incurable
Miss Green began suffering stomach problems since she was 19 but believes her healthy lifestyle of doing weights, yoga and running (pictured left and right) meant she coped with the symptoms better than most
She also felt lethargic at work and tired most evenings.
‘I would come home and sit down to watch a film and be asleep in ten minutes,’ she said.
‘Maybe it was because my body was under so much stress with the condition.’
Over time, her symptoms grew progressively worse.
Four years ago, she was in immense pain with cramps and diarrhoea and had to phone an ambulance.
She was rushed to hospital in Poole, where doctors believed she had gastroenteritis.
Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) are rare tumours that can occur in the cells of the neuroendocrine system.
The neuroendocrine system consists of nerve and gland cells.
It produces hormones and releases them into the bloodstream.
NETs are tumours (abnormal growths) that develop in the cells of the neuroendocrine system.
NETs can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous) and often – but not always – grow slowly.
There are a number of different types of NET, depending on the specific cells affected.
Symptoms include diarrhoea, constipation or stomach pains.
A tumour in the lung can cause wheezing or a persistent cough.
Source: NHS Choices
Miss Green, a sales and marketing manager, then went back and forth to her GP multiple times.
Eventually, later that year, she underwent blood tests, biopsies and a colonoscopy, and was told the awful news she had neuroendocrine cancer.
She said: ‘I was told that the hot flushes I’d had years earlier were a symptom of the cancer and I started to think about all the symptoms I’d had.
‘I wondered how long the cancer had been growing and my surgeon estimated 15 years.’
Miss Green had an eight-hour operation to remove the tumours and a section of her bowel, leaving her with a nine-inch scar across her belly.
She then remained on a high dependency ward for three days following her surgery and in hospital for nine days overall.
Now, she continues to have regular injections, which she started taking immediately following her diagnosis, to help manage the symptoms of her cancer and slow down it’s regrowth.
She also has yearly scans to check for other tumours.
She is grateful that the operation has bought her extra time, but now must accept that the cancer will return and will be untreatable.
She said: ‘I’ve been told that my cancer will regrow but I’m hoping that surgeons have bought me years by removing the tumours I had.
‘I’m no longer in pain but I have to deal with the fact that I’m living with cancer.
‘My surgeons removed all visible tumours but you can’t expect to remove every one so I still have cancer.’
Now, she is fundraising for cancer charities, took part in the Morrisons Great South Run last month, running for PLANET – Pancreatic, Liver and Neuroendocrine Tumours – which raises money to research and treat the rare form of the disease she is suffering.
Miss Green, pictured aged 22 (left) and with the surgeon who performed her operation, hopes the treatment will prolong her life.
She said: ‘I’ve been told that my cancer will regrow but I’m hoping that surgeons have bought me years by removing the tumours I had’