Lesley Nelson, Christie patient

Lesley went for a colonoscopy when she hadn’t been feeling quite right. Her colonoscopy took place in 2018, in an NHS mobile unit in Manchester. The doctor wasn’t happy with what he saw, so he took a biopsy. Sadly, Lesley got a diagnosis of anal cancer just a couple of days later. 

After being referred to The Christie, Lesley received 6 weeks of radiotherapy and 2 cycles of chemotherapy. She said her system didn’t cope with well with this and soon after, her hair began to fall out. Lesley’s doctors had hoped that this treatment would clear her cancer but a year later, they told her that her cancer hadn’t completely gone. 

2 specialist nurses explained to Lesley that she needed surgery – this involved having a stoma and colostomy. Lesley’s surgery took place in the Colorectal and Peritoneal Oncology Centre (CPOC) at The Christie in 2019. CPOC has an international reputation for treating advanced and early colorectal cancer, appendix tumours, peritoneal tumours, anal cancer and tumours within the pelvis. 

Lesley struggled with the physical and mental recovery after her surgery. She said she’s not sure how she got through it, but the support of others made a huge difference. Lesley said she had all the love and good wishes of family and friends, as well as support from doctors, specialist nurses, ward nurses and nursing assistants, counsellors and complementary therapists. 

The physical recovery was also a challenge – Lesley had to learn to cope with the new routines involved with living with a colostomy and wait for her body to heal. After 2 and a half weeks, Lesley came home from hospital. 

Just a couple of weeks later, Lesley’s elder daughter gave birth to twins. The delight of now having a grandson and granddaughter got her through the weeks of recovery and gave her something to focus on. The community stoma nurse also visited Lesley, and she felt very well supported. 

“With information provided by the Macmillan organisation, I attended some group sessions at Maggie’s. I found the ‘Look Good Feel Better’ and ‘Colour Me Beautiful’ sessions particularly helpful. They highlighted ways to look after my appearance and help restore my self-esteem.
“I returned to playing music in a trio with my husband and another musician, then found the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns disrupted practices and performances more than the cancer had.”

   - Lesley Nelson, Christie patient

In 2020, Lesley’s annual scan showed her cancer had come back. She was re-admitted to The Christie for further surgery. Her surgery took place during a lockdown in the COVID-19 pandemic, but Lesley said she felt very safe as staff and patients were tested on a regular basis. She wasn’t allowed any visitors, which made her days long. However, she had my phone, and her husband was able to get books and treats sent via porters and nurses. 

After her second surgery, Lesley’s 6-month scan found no trace of the tumour. In 2021, Lesley and her husband were able to go on holiday to Cornwall with all the family. Lesley said she’s so grateful to be still around to enjoy time with her family, particularly her grandchildren.

To find out more about colorectal and peritoneal oncology treatment at The Christie, please see our About CPOC page for further information.