Inspirational teen battling bowel cancer in awareness raising fight
A teenager battling terminal bowel cancer is hoping to raise awareness among GPs about its prevalence among young people.
Megan Pryde, 19, has been told her cancer is too aggressive to treat, but has vowed to live her life like she "doesn't have cancer" and enjoy every opportunity.
The teenager, from Little Corby, is also planning to write to every GP in Cumbria.
She explains: "It’s not just old people who get bowel cancer. Young people can get it too."
Megan was just 18 when she received the devastating news that she had bowel cancer.
“I first realised something wasn’t quite right in about October 2015," she recalls. "I was suffering from really bad constipation and stomach pains and constantly felt tired all the time."
The teenager visited her doctor and was given medication for severe constipation.
A few months later, on February 6, 2016, Megan was getting ready to go to her part-time job at Magic Castle in Denton Holme, when she started suffering from excruciating stomach pains.
“The pain was so intense I called my mum and dad, who were in Carlisle shopping," she says. "When they arrived home, they took one look at me and my dad took me straight to A&E at the Cumberland Infirmary.
"I spent most of the day in A&E, before I was told by doctors that they suspected I had appendicitis."
She was transferred to a general ward and was in surgery by that evening, where doctors discovered a cyst on her ovary.
During the following five days in hospital, the teenager underwent tests including an MRI scan, a CT scan and a colonoscopy.
Eventually doctors broke the news to Megan and her parents that she had a tumour on her ovary and her bowel. On February 15 they given the devastating news that she had bowel cancer.
“Finding out I had cancer was a huge shock for me, my family and friends," she admits.
"The last year has, without doubt, been the worst year of my life."
Despite being diagnosed with bowel cancer at such a young age, Megan says she is determined to live as a normal life as possible and passed her driving test - just weeks after her diagnosis.
She also successfully completed her two-year NVQ Level 3 course in childcare at Carlisle College.
“I might have cancer, but I’m still me," says Megan, a former pupil at William Howard School in Brampton.
"When I was first told I had cancer, I wrote a ‘bucket list’ of everything I wanted to do, whilst I was still feeling well enough. It wasn’t a big list.
"I wanted to try to help raise awareness of bowel cancer among other young people and to raise money for Teenager Cancer Trust.
“I also wanted to go on holiday with my mum, dad and sister and see Beyoncé in concert.”
Sadly her health has already prevented Megan achieving many of her goals - for now at least.
She had been due to see her idol, Beyoncé, on the opening night of her Formation tour in Sunderland last year, but was too poorly to attend.
Another concert trip - to see Olly Murs at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle last month with her friends - also had to be cancelled.
“I also wanted to go to to Portugal with my family," Megan says, "but the doctors said I wasn’t well enough to travel.
"I was sad not to be able to go on holiday, but we managed to get away for a few days to Liverpool a couple of weeks ago.
"I was upset I didn’t get to see Beyoncé and Olly Murs in concert too, but that’s okay."
However, the inspirational teenager is keeping to her promise about raising awareness of bowel cancer in young adults.
Not only is she speaking out for the first time about her own battle, she is planning to write to every GP in Cumbria.
She wants to remind them that while more common in older people, the cruel disease can strike anyone of any age.
Her letter-writing campaign will focus on two tools that will help GPs spot the signs of cancer in young people and signs of bowel cancer: the Bowel Cancer Toolkit - launched last month to coincide with Bowel Cancer Awareness Month; and the GP e-learning module entitled Detecting cancer in children and young people - this was devised by the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Megan has been told her cancer is too aggressive to treat but, despite this devastating prognosis, she says she remains hopeful.
She credits the love and support of all her family and friends - especially mum Bev, 45, dad Mike, 44 and 13-year-old sister, Ellie - for helping her get through the past year.
“My mum, dad and Ellie have all been amazing," Megan continues. "They’ve all had to make so many changes to their everyday routines and adapt their lives to fit around me.
"Ellie has been amazing and really looks after me. She is only 13 but is already talking about becoming a children’s oncology nurse because of what she has seen me go through.
"I love her and my mum and dad so much and always will."
She adds: “I’m trying to enjoy life as much as I can and live my life like I don’t have cancer.
"I’m just a normal teenager who happens to be fighting cancer.
"I have my family and friends and I am surrounded by love, and that’s more important at the end of the day.
"Having a life-threatening illness like cancer makes you realise what’s really important in life."