Tasha Thor-Straten, 49, claims she “ignored” warnings of bowel cancer like blood in her poo until they became too severe to ignore – but after a horrendous diagnosis she made a miracle recovery.
Image: PA Real Life)
A mum who planned her funeral after being told she had terminal cancer has made a miraculous recovery and now has the all-clear.
Tasha Thor-Straten, 49, had just moved in with her fiancé Russ Parker and their children from previous relationships when she started noticing blood in her poo.
But the life coach admits she was too loved up to pay attention to the warning sign.
She said: “I was ignoring the blood in my stools. I didn’t think anything of it and I assumed it was just down to things like work or parenting stress.
“I went to my GP surgery twice and chickened out on saying anything because I was scared about the process and what might happen next.
“When I look back on that time, there were other symptoms, such as pain in my stomach when exercising and lower back pain, but I put this down to over-exertion.”
By Christmas 2016 the blood loss was so severe Tasha couldn’t ignore it anymore and she reluctantly went back to the doctor who referred her for a colonoscopy.
PA Real Life)
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After the colonoscopy, she had an MRI and CT scan – and when she was called in for her results, she was given some devastating news.
“I knew something was going on but I didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was,” she said.
“The doctor told me that I had terminal bowel cancer, it had spread to my lungs and I was offered palliative care. It was utterly shocking and devastating.
“It never occurred to me that my symptoms could be bowel cancer. I was fit, healthy and took care of my diet and there was no history of it in my family.
“To find out that not only was it cancer, but that I was going to die from it was almost too much to bear.”
Going back home after her devastating diagnosis, Tasha agonised over how to tell her kids Amy, 17, and Theo, 13, that their mum was probably going to die.
She also began thinking about her funeral and started planning how she wanted to be sent off by her loved ones.
“I just couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I was constantly in floods of tears and had some very emotional conversations with the kids,” Tasha recalled.
But the following month when Tasha went for more tests, she was given a ray of light.
She said: “On further inspection, while I do have lung nodules, the doctors discovered they are not cancerous. Just like that, I was given a window of hope.”
While her cancer was advanced at stage 3, there was hope that with surgery, the mum-of-two might make a full recovery.
She recalled: “I went in for my operation on February 28. They cut out the part of my bowel where the cancer was, which was about a 35mm tumour and then they had to put my bowel back together again.
“When they were discussing the process with me, the surgeons warned that there was a high chance that they would need to fit a stoma bag during the operation, so I had to mentally prepare myself for it.
PA Real Life)
PA Real Life)
“But when I woke up afterwards, I discovered that they had not ended up needing to do so, which I was very relieved about.”
After the successful operation Tasha had chemotherapy, which took a horrendous toll on her body.
“My side effects were severe, including extreme tiredness, sadness, nerve pain and a negative reaction to sunlight and the cold,” she said.
Struggling to cope with chemo, Tasha contacted Dame Deborah James, who had posted on social media about living with bowel cancer.
Since her diagnosis, Dame Deborah has raised awareness of the symptoms of bowel cancer and has been known to reply to the thousands of people with the same diagnosis who have contacted her for support.
Tasha said: “I saw on social media that [Dame Deborah] was struggling to sleep due to treatment. I was going through the same thing, so I messaged her.
PA Real Life)
“It was really nice to talk to someone who understood exactly what I was going through. She offered me some nuggets of advice and it was a real comfort.”
In August 2017 Tasha was making good progress with her treatment and, after consulting with doctors, she decided to stop having chemotherapy after four rounds.
Shortly afterwards, she was given the all-clear.
She said: “It felt like the day I got my life back and I wanted to be able to help other people who were going through cancer diagnoses.”
Since her recovery Tasha has started working in life coaching and has set up a company, Let’s Make Time, which helps people living with life-changing illnesses like cancer.
She has had to make several adjustments to her own lifestyle to keep herself well.
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“Although I considered myself to be fit and healthy at the time of my diagnosis, my diet has been tweaked since then,” she said.
“I can no longer digest red meat and processed foods. I also steer clear of beans and regularly visit a homeopath and look for ways to improve my gut health.”
She added: “When I first started my business, lockdown had just hit, so I was having to do sessions over video calls. Now it’s lovely to meet my clients and help them with face-to-face sessions.
“I use my skills to help others who are living with cancer to thrive.
“As someone who received the worst diagnosis imaginable, I want to help others along the route as they navigate their journeys.”