In April 2015 Tom O’Keefe took a call that would ultimately save his life. The BowelScreen programme sends out a home testing kit to those aged between 60-69 to complete and return for analysis. Bowel screening is a simple home test (called a FIT - faecal immunochemical test) that looks for tiny amounts of blood, which are not visible to the eye, in your bowel motion. When Tom heard what the test was for, he thought he would, “fly through it” because he had never had any difficulty or symptoms to worry about.
The results came back quickly and showed a very small amount of blood, meaning Tom would have to be scheduled in for a colonoscopy for further investigation. As he wasn’t anticipating any problems, suddenly Tom went into a panic about what it could mean. Luckily a nurse in BowelScreen contacted him to talk through the next steps. This meant Tom had an opportunity to explain how anxious he was and also to ask her how soon he could have the colonoscopy done. She advised that there were several hospitals across the country that provides these procedures for BowelScreen. Two weeks later Tom had his colonoscopy in Tralee in University Hospital Kerry.
After the sample removed, it was sent for more tests and in early July Tom was diagnosed with colon cancer. Fortunately, because of BowlScreen, they had caught it at a very early stage and the consultant Mr. Emmet Andrew didn’t anticipate there being any issue in removing a part of Tom’s colon. The surgery was scheduled for August 7th and Tom received a call from a stoma nurse to talk him through the possibility of having a stoma bag after surgery. Initially, he was very concerned about this, thinking it would really limit the things he liked to do, such as playing a round of golf. By chance, he got talking with one of the men at the club who said he had been fitted with one and nobody even knew.
This revelation gave Tom some comfort before going in for the surgery which took four hours and was completed through a keyhole incision. When he woke, Tom was thrilled to see he didn’t require a stoma and that the surgery had been a success. After 8 days he returned home and needed no further treatment because the cancer hadn’t spread. After two check-ups and almost a year Tom thanks BowlScreen for detecting his cancer at such an early stage, allowing him to continue a normal life with wife Mabel and his regular Skype calls with his grandchildren.