A MAN is lucky to be alive after his "indigestion" turned out to be bowel cancer.
Alex McCartney, 38, from Irvine, believes his age was the reason why it took so long for his cancer to be diagnosed.
More than 80% of bowel cancers are diagnosed in people over 60
He was given indigestion tablets and laxatives by doctors and lost almost five stones in weight before he was diagnosed.
Even after undergoing an endoscopy - used to diagnose bowel cancer - he was discharged from hospital but his health continued to deteriorate.
He said: “I was having problems eating.
“I was getting really unwell and looking really pale with no energy. Even walking up the stairs was taking it out of me."
Finally, in July 2014, he was admitted to University Hospital Crosshouse in Kilmarnock and diagnosed with bowel cancer after an X-ray picked up a blockage in his intestine.
Alex, who works as a desk engineer at Hunterston Power Station in North Ayrhire, underwent surgery to remove a large section of the long intestine.
He was also given chemotherapy, which finished in June 2015 and a month later he got married.
Alex was fitted with a colostomy bag but decided to undergo a reversal operation to rejoin the ends of his bowel.
He said: “Every story I read was very negative but for me it was the best decision I could have made at the time.
"The final surgery has gone so much better than I could have hoped for. Now it's just getting the body back into real life.”
Alex and his wife Allyson were supported by Macmillan Cancer Support through the charity’s drop in services at Boots in Irvine.
He said: “The Macmillan people referred us to local counselling.
"It's been more of a challenge for my wife than myself. I maintain I had it easy. All I had to do was lie there and do what the doctors told me to do. She had to deal with all the other things in her life as well.”
The Macmillan Cancer Information and Support drop in services provide trained volunteers who can offer advice about local support services such as financial guidance, counselling and complementary therapies or support groups.
Bowel cancer is the UK’s fourth most common cancer and over 90 per cent of cases can be successfully treated when a diagnosis is made early.
As of 2015, around 290,000 people were living with bowel cancer in the UK.
Symptoms include blood in stools for three weeks or longer, a pain or a lump in your tummy or back passage, losing weight for no obvious reason and feeling more tired than usual.
For more information call Macmillan Cancer Support free on 0808 808 00 00 or visit macmillan.org.uk