A woman who heard Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield chatting about bowel cancer on This Morning said the presenters saved her life.
When Ally Fabbish had constipation and stomach pains during lockdown, she put the changes down to being less active and a change of diet since working from home.
The 55-year-old only became concerned after hearing a health segment on the daytime show where the TV hosts were promoting Lorraine Kelly’s No Butts campaign, encouraging people to call their doctor if they had any change in their bowel habits or tummy pain.
Ally, whose dad had recently been diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer, phoned her GP and asked to be referred for tests. Two weeks later she too was diagnosed.
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Ally, from Glasgow, said: “Because my dad had bowel cancer, I knew a fair bit about the disease but even I didn’t put two and two together until I saw Phil and Holly on This
“I’ve been constipated on and off all my life but this time round it was really quite bad for five or six months.
“I thought it was down to me working from home permanently as a result of the coronavirus pandemic – my daily routine had changed, I was sitting down more and I was eating differently.
“I’d spoken to my doctor about it and she had given me some medication that had helped but then I’d started getting tummy aches all the time.
“The only reason I ended up going back to the doctor was that I’d been at home and working with Phil and Holly on in the background and I heard them talking about bowel cancer symptoms.
“I was sitting there with a tummy ache and thought, ‘This is a sign.’ Had it not been for them at that particular moment, I might not have made the link.”
Ally rang her doctor and was referred for tests, which led to her being diagnosed with early-stage bowel cancer in March this year.
On the day she was admitted to hospital for life-saving surgery to remove the tumour, her dad Robert Rae, who lived in New Zealand, was told the bowel cancer he had been living with for three years was no longer treatable.
She wanted to jump on a plane to be at his side but the treatment she needed and strict quarantine restrictions meant she wasn’t able to make the 25-hour journey to see her father.
Ally wasn’t with Robert, 89, when he died and couldn’t attend his funeral.
She said: “When my dad was told his cancer had spread – that he was terminally ill – the doctors told him he had up to six months and he really hung on to that figure.
“I knew my chemo would take three months and my plan was to go over when my treatment was finished. But in the end my dad only lasted two months.
“He helped me with so much. I would ring him every couple of days and say, ‘This has happened,’ and he would say ‘Yep, yep – that’s normal.’ He was my rock.
“My dad knew how much I wanted to come home to be with him but he told me not to come, to get through my treatment and get well first. We thought he’d still be there by the time that happened but sadly it wasn’t to be.”
At the end of her treatment, Ally – who documented her cancer journey on her YouTube channel – returned to work in her job with the communications team at Scottish Water.
She said: “I work at Scottish Water where a big part of our job is dealing with sewage – I write about pee and poo all day. I want to get everyone to be aware of bowel cancer’s early symptoms.
“Already I have a friend who had been suffering from constipation and, because of me, she went to get checked. It turns out she was suffering from polyps in her bowel, which could have turned to cancer.
“I’m so glad she went to her doctor and I want other people to do the same.”
This Morning’s editor Martin Frizell said: “It’s always incredible to hear the show has helped a viewer. Our medical family on the show are a vital part of the programme so to hear their advice – along with Phillip and Holly discussing this topic – helped Ally is fantastic.
“The whole team are thrilled her cancer was caught early and has been treated.”