A FLINTSHIRE mum who was diagnosed with bowel cancer has said she had no idea women in their 30’s could develop the disease.

Lauren Fresa, from Flint, was diagnosed in 2021 after experiencing changes to her bowel habits, which she put down to lifestyle changes. And when the 36-year-old became pregnant with her second child in 2020, she continued to think her symptoms were caused by other changes in her body.

“But one day, having been to my doctors a few times, I started vomiting and I hadn’t been to the toilet for eight days,” Lauren said. “I went to the hospital and told them I wouldn’t be going home until I was seen by someone. Their colorectal team saw me and did some tests and told me it was serious.”

Lauren, mum to seven-year-old Liam, had a colostomy – surgery to connect the bowel to the surface of the tummy and attach a small bag known as a stoma to the outside of the body to collect waste – and was told there was a strong possibility she could have bowel cancer. Having the procedure to fit the stoma was high-risk and unfortunately, Lauren lost her baby son Charlie during the operation, 20 weeks into her pregnancy.

“My first few weeks of having the stoma were really hard," she said. "I was dealing with a lot and I just didn’t want to have to contend with a stoma too. I even told the lovely stoma nurse to go away – I just couldn’t handle it. And the entire time, my husband Kris was also dealing with a lot – trying to make arrangements for Charlie, look after me and care for Liam, who has learning difficulties.”

The Leader: Lauren with her husband Kris and their son, LiamLauren with her husband Kris and their son, Liam (Image: The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Trust)

When tests confirmed Lauren did have bowel cancer, she began chemotherapy treatment at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Wirral. “My father-in-law was being treated at Clatterbridge for pancreatic cancer, so I knew I was in good hands," she said.

“The moment I spoke to my consultant, Dr Sripadam, I felt like he really knew what he was talking about. He reassured me and we started on a treatment that he’d recommended. Scans also showed I was eligible for surgery so in June 2022, I had extensive surgery, including a full hysterectomy, after the cancer had spread to my ovaries.”


Despite all she’s been through over the past few years, as well as having ongoing fortnightly chemotherapy at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, Lauren is back working and spending time with her family, going on long walks and enjoying the countryside around her home in Flint.

Lauren is  a primary school teacher and said being around the children is an "amazing distraction". "When they need you, their problems seem massive compared to yours and it helps me to forget what’s going on," she said. "My school have also been really accommodating, giving me time away for my chemotherapy appointments and to recover from treatment.”

Lauren is determined to remain positive and is telling her story to raise awareness of bowel cancer and its symptoms as part of World Cancer Day on February 4. “The staff at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre have been amazing," she said. "I’m so glad I’m being looked after here – it makes the entire experience that tiny bit less daunting.”

Dr Raj Sripadam, consultant in clinical oncology at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, was leading Lauren’s care when she was first introduced to Clatterbridge. He said: “Lauren has had an awful lot to deal with over the past few years and was in a very difficult position, clinically and psychologically, when she came to us.  I’m glad the team at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre have been able to support her through some of those challenges.

“World Cancer Day is an important opportunity to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer so as an oncologist, I would urge people to seek help if anything is worrying them. It’s important you tell your GP surgery or the NHS helpline 111, about any unusual symptoms as the sooner these are investigated, the better are the long-term outcomes.”