Jane and Sue’s Story – Bowel cancer and oesophageal cancer

Jane and Sue’s story is told by Catherine, one of their sisters-in-law.

Catherine chose to run the 2024 London Marathon for Guts UK Charity, in memory of both Jane and Sue, and crossed the finish line with them both in her heart and thoughts.

Sue (left) and Jane (right)

Tell us about Jane  

“Jane was one of my husband’s sisters. She was an amazingly positive individual and was a lifelong, dedicated science teacher. She taught in Africa for several years at the end of her career, then came home to be with her elderly parents.” 

When did Jane start experiencing symptoms of bowel cancer 

“Around 2013/2014, Jane spotted blood in her stool. She followed this up and was diagnosed with bowel cancer.”

What treatment did Jane receive for bowel cancer? 

She had chemotherapy and surgery to remove the affected section of her bowel. She was given a colostomy (where the end of the large intestine – the colon – is brought out the body via the abdomen, to allow stool to pass into a bag attached to the skin).  She managed very well with her colostomy and scans revealed the bowel cancer hadn’t spread. Several months later, in 2015/16, Jane had the colostomy reversed (the bowel was put back in her body so she could pass stool normally).”

What did the scans show towards the end of 2016? 

“Unfortunately, a later follow-up scan showed that there was now cancer on her liver and possibly her lung. She was diagnosed with terminal stage four cancer and, although chemotherapy might have given her a few more months, she declined as the original chemotherapy had made her so unwell. She wanted to spend her remaining months feeling well enough to spend time with her family and friends. She passed away peacefully at home in May 2017, aged 67.”  

Can you tell us a little about Sue? 

“Sue was the partner of one of my husband’s siblings. She was also amazing and a dynamic individual who was heavily involved in theatre and storytelling, and looking after her partner Martin, her sons Robin and Hugo and her extended family. She always looked after her health.”

What were Sue’s symptoms of oesophageal cancer? 

“During the pandemic, Sue had Covid a couple of times, the last time being Summer 2022. When we saw them that Christmas, she still had an irritable cough which she put down to Covid. In January 2023, she had an x-ray to determine the cause: her lungs were clear. Shortly after that, she started having trouble swallowing. By the end of February, it had got worse.  Sue had an endoscopy (a thin tube with a camera on the end to look down the throat, oesophagus and so on) and biopsies were taken (tissue samples). They found a mass and she was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer.

What treatment did Sue receive for oesophageal cancer? 

Chemotherapy was alternated with radiotherapy. Her doctors wanted to shrink the tumour to allow them to operate more effectively. Although Sue tolerated the chemotherapy well, when she had another scan at the end of June 2023, this revealed that the cancer had spread to her liver. Her medical team felt surgery was now not a good option and that she’d receive palliative chemotherapy and immunotherapy. However, in mid-July, she had to be taken to hospital due to temperature spikes and began treatment for a potential bacterial infection. It soon became clear that this was a fever commonly associated with cancer. Sue wasn’t improving.”

Talk us through September 2023 onwards 

“She returned home for palliative care. We were told she had around six weeks to live, but I think it was around three. She passed away at the end of September at home, with her family by her side. As a determined individual she felt in control and as much as is possible, at peace at the end, which must have been a great help. We can all take a bit of comfort from that.”

Why did you want to fundraise for Guts UK? 

It was very poignant that the 2024 London Marathon took place on what would have been Sue’s 65th birthday. I got a ballot place and I thought “it’s madness to do it without fundraising for somebody.” I wanted to fundraise for a cause that covered what both Jane and Sue experienced and run in their memory, and I found Guts UK Charity via a Google search.  

I know how important medical research is from my career as a research scientist. It’s vital to fund fundamental research into earlier detection and potential new treatments for patients and their families.” 

How did you find running the London Marathon? 

“I ran the marathon with one of Sue and her partner Martin’s sons, Hugo, and other family members too. It was a great experience! I finished it, uninjured, and in a shorter time than I’d imagined. The support was phenomenal, from the crowds in general and my family and friends, including the unforgettable atmosphere, music and regular offerings of sweets to see us through. I’ve raised over £3,500 (and counting!), including a collection for Guts UK from the concert of a choir I sing with.” 

Are there any tips you’d give to others who want to fundraise? 

Get in touch with Guts UK Charity today. The team have been so helpful and supportive. The whole process felt very easy, right from the beginning. Don’t hesitate to start early with your training and use the power of social media when it comes to fundraising! I started sharing my fundraising page once a month and increased this as it got closer to the marathon. Every time you share, you have different people seeing you and supporting you.

Can you tell us why you are sharing Sue and Jane’s experiences today? 

Raising awareness, particularly when it comes to symptoms of bowel cancer and oesophageal cancer, is vital. Don’t ignore your symptoms. Whatever is causing them can be treated more effectively with earlier diagnosis. Sue and Jane’s experiences have affected us deeply as a family and we miss them every day. You aren’t alone in what you are going through. Remember, sharing is caring. 

Guts UK is the only UK charity funding research into the digestive system from top to tail; the gut, liver and pancreas.

People are suffering. People are dying. All because of a lack of knowledge about our guts. Guts UK exists to change that. 

With new knowledge, we will end the pain and suffering for the millions affected by digestive diseases. Please consider donating today. Your donation will help fund research leading to earlier diagnoses, kinder treatments and ultimately, a cure.