Sandy McGill is Falkirk's poster boy for bowel screening

Those aged 50 to 74 in Scotland receive a package in the post every two years which they may well dread.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 14th October 2018, 3:48 pm
Updated Sunday, 14th October 2018, 5:02 pm
Fighting fit...Sandy McGill has nothing but praise for the team at Forth Valley Royal Hospital where he received bowel surgery after a cancer screening test. (Pic: Michael Gillen)
Fighting fit...Sandy McGill has nothing but praise for the team at Forth Valley Royal Hospital where he received bowel surgery after a cancer screening test. (Pic: Michael Gillen)

The bowel screening test may not be a pleasant chore but, with 4000 people in Scotland getting bowel cancer every year, it’s a necessary evil.

And Sandy McGill knows that popping your poo in the post can be a real lifesaver.

The 73-year-old from Allandale was feeling as fit as a fiddle in March when he sent his kit back.

Sign up to our daily The Falkirk Herald Today newsletter

Nearing the end...with only one day of their walk left to go, the Rotary Club of Falkirk trio were all smiles! (L-r) Club secretary Sandy McGill, treasurer Linda Noble and president Jim Cairns on their 35 mile trek from the Kelpies to Bowling.

On two previous occasions, he’d been asked to go for a colonoscopy then had polyps removed.

So when he was asked to go for another one in April this year, he thought nothing much about it.

Sandy said: “I was lying on my side, partially sedated, with the TV screen in front of me, looking at the inside of my intestines.

“I saw this lovely, smooth pink ball and heard the surgeon say: that’s a cancer.

“I thought cancer would be a big, black jaggy thing – not a nice, wee pink ball.

“He sat with my wife Diane and myself later that day and explained he had taken a biopsy.”

A few weeks later, Sandy was invited to attend Forth Valley Royal Hospital for a pre-op assessment and information meeting.

Sandy said: “I walked in to discover four couples there, with staff explaining bowel surgery to them. I hadn’t had my results at this point – they hadn’t asked me along to a clinic.

“But I knew my operation had been booked for June 12.

“The surgeon came down to speak to me and explained the biospy had shown a high grade dysplasia (growth).

“I was worried about the high grade bit but he explained it was good news – that it was actually a benign tumour.

“However, he also explained that there was no telling what the rest of the growth was. The biopsy was just a tiny wee sample.”

Sandy duly arrived at the Larbert hospital on June 12 for the operation.

He explained: “I wasn’t really worried about it.

“Maybe I was being a wee bit naive because when I told the nurse that, she looked me straight in the eye and said: this is major surgery.

“In a way it was good, as I only had half an hour to worry about it by then!”

Sandy has nothing but praise for the team at Forth Valley Royal Hospital.

He said: “I can’t say enough about the quality of care I received.

“I had my operation on the Tuesday and was taken back into intensive care that night as I had a bowel obstruction.

“I forget how many lines were in me but the staff were truly amazing; I was home the following Tuesday.”

The surgeon discovered that his tumour had, in fact, been cancerous.

But thanks to the kit’s early detection and his subsequent surgery, Sandy received the all clear.

His lymph nodes were clear and there was no need for any further treatment.

Sandy decided to share his story in a bid to encourage other people to send their kits off.

“The surgeon told me that the tumour had been cancerous but he managed to get it all out,” he said.

“I had not been feeling unwell and had no symptoms so, without the test, I would have been none the wiser.

“That’s why it’s vital people send off their tests.

“Sadly, too many people still put the kit in the bin because it’s not a very dignified thing to do but what’s the alternative?

“It’s pretty silly when you consider the consequences.

“If the doctors catch something early, they can deal with it. I’m proof of that.

“My sister Mary’s son, Myles Cockburn, is a professor in preventative medicine at the University of Colorado’s cancer centre.

“He encouraged me to share my story; he said I should be a poster boy for the screening kit because what happened is exactly how it’s supposed to work. They find a problem and fix it.”

Indeed, Sandy, who is a self-employed architect, is feeling better than ever. He has lost a few pounds so his BMI is perfect and his blood pressure is also lower.

The Rotary Club of Falkirk secretary has also completed a 35 mile walk from the Kelpies to Bowling, along with club president Jim Cairns and treasurer Linda Noble, to raise funds for the Dollar Park floral clock fund.

He added: “We did it over the space of four days – 14 miles the first, then three days of seven miles.

“We’ve raised £1180 so far; we’d like to thank all our sponsors for their support.”

Sandy and Diane will celebrate their golden wedding on March 5 next year with their children Peter and Wendy and four grandchildren.