My health experience - Kevin Sheedy: I am pinching myself sometimes as to whether it happened
Kevin Sheedy: ‘I’ve adapted my coaching style very slightly but nothing has changed really.’ Photograph: Dan Istitene/Getty Images
I lost my mother to bowel cancer three years ago and my father is in remission now having had an operation for the same condition seven years ago so I suppose I was a likely candidate to have a run-in with it myself at some stage.
Still, having been a sports person, always having had a healthy enough diet, never having smoked or been a heavy drinker, I thought maybe I’d escape and so it took an ad campaign on television and radio last year for the penny to drop with me.
It was the end of June and there were big ads running saying that if you had a change in your bowel habits, if your poo was a lot looser or if you were passing blood in it, then go see your GP.
Well, I was on the loo all the time around then and one day it just struck me: “This is me.” I had all the symptoms so I went more or less straight away.
Initially things looked good. The blood test came back clear and the stool sample was okay but the doctor said he’d send me for a camera test just to rule things out. That’s probably what saved my life.
They detected the tumour straight away. It was a really scary moment. I’d had a letter beforehand saying that if they needed to take tissue samples, they would. When I had the camera inside me I could see what was going on and it became clear that that was what they were doing; it was like they were excavating, taking loads and loads of tissue.
Alarm bells start
I was lying there and I could see my insides and I could see them taking tissue samples and suddenly I’m really aware that I have got something and the panic sets in, the alarm bells start.
I went into a waiting room and I remember that one by one the other people in my group were being called out and leaving. The next group of people came in and then one by one they left. At that stage I was fearing the worst.
When I was called in to see the specialist and head nurse, I just knew the minute I walked into the room that it was bad news, you can’t hide it, and sure enough they said that they had detected a tumour.
I didn’t really listen to anything else. It was all going over my head really while my wife, Joanne, asked some questions but I did sort of hear them saying, “If you’re going to get it, you’ve got it in a good place.” And that was something for me to cling on to.
I’m a pretty positive person generally and I took heart too from the fact they didn’t rush me in. It was a couple of weeks before I had the operation and so I went back to work and just tried to get on with things. I was glad to be occupied although every now and again my mind would wander.