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It is World Cancer Day on Saturday (4 February) and one of Albion in the Community’s (AITC) volunteers is sharing her story to encourage people not to let anything put them off visiting their GP if they notice any of the early signs of cancer.

Kirsti Spaven from Hove overcame bowel cancer and is now determined to use her experience to alert others to the symptoms of a range of cancers.

She volunteers with AITC’s Speak Up Against Cancer programme which is funded by NHS Brighton and...

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Albion in the Community volunteer has awareness message for World Cancer Day

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It is World Cancer Day on Saturday (4 February) and one of Albion in the Community’s (AITC) volunteers is sharing her story to encourage people not to let anything put them off visiting their GP if they notice any of the early signs of cancer.

Kirsti Spaven from Hove overcame bowel cancer and is now determined to use her experience to alert others to the symptoms of a range of cancers.

She volunteers with AITC’s Speak Up Against Cancer programme which is funded by NHS Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group and Brighton and Hove City Council Public Health. It aims to address low early cancer detection and therefore increase survival rates within the city.

Kirsti is adamant that people should not let anything prevent them from making contact with the health service. And she is clear as to what she believes is the main reason people are put off.  She said: “I really think the main one is fear, pure and simple.”

Kirsti was on holiday when she first noticed a problem – some blood on toilet paper she had used – but the symptoms then stopped for a while. When they returned she began researching potential causes online. Seeing the word cancer appear on her screen stopped her in her tracks.

“I shut down completely,” she revealed, “I refused to face the possible consequences for several weeks. I can only describe what I felt as naked fear. I did not want to go there. But in the end, sense – and nagging from my husband – prevailed and I made an appointment with my doctor who immediately ordered an investigation.

“Being told about my cancer was pretty devastating. I had been through several tests and scans and knew there was a very strong possibility at that stage, but it was still a blow.  I suppose you hope against hope that it is not really happening.”

After her cancer treatment, Kirsti attended AITC’s Brighter Outlook course, which provides free, personalised physical activity for people living with and beyond cancer in Brighton and Hove.

Brighter Outlook offers a free personalised support and activity plan from cancer exercise rehabilitation specialists. It certainly proved useful to Kirsti. She said: “Having been through everything that I had, my body was not in a great state and I had been wondering how to pluck up the courage to get back to the gym.”

This service is funded by NHS Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group and supported by Macmillan Cancer Support to improve outcomes for patients living with and beyond cancer.

“Taking the first step back into fitness after something like that is not easy,” continued Kirtsi.” I signed up for the free classes and really enjoyed them. Most of all they showed me that I could get back into shape, which was very helpful.”

As a result of this, Kirsti was introduced to Speak Up and has now turned her attentions to helping others. “Our mission,” she explained, “is to help spread information about cancer symptoms in order to increase awareness and get people who may be worried to go and see their GP.

“Bowel cancer in particular concerns a part and a function of the body which many are reluctant to even mention, let alone have investigated. By talking frankly about what happened to me, I am hoping to break down a few of the barriers that stop people from taking action when they probably know that they should.”

And if Kirtsi had one message for anyone worried about cancer symptoms, what would it be? “I often hear the argument that people don’t want to bother their GP with what may not be anything to worry about. My response to that is that you will be a far bigger ‘burden’ on the health service if you don’t nip a possible cancer in the bud, so to speak.

“Talk to your GP. Take advice. Communicate your fears.”

For more information on either Speak Up Against Cancer or Brighter Outlook, email: health@albioninthecommunity.org.uk or call 01273 668591.