Dad's flu-like symptoms and aching joints turned out to be signs of cancer

By Claire Barre & Victoria Jones

A grandad who thought he was suffering from long covid was later diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Chris Boardman has spoken about his experience and urged people to be more open about their health.

The 60-year-old, who retired as group managing director for BAE Systems’ Air sector on December 31, was diagnosed with colon cancer in February last year, Lancs Live report.

But Mr Boardman initially went to see his GP in 2020 because he thought his aching joints, flu-like symptoms and bowel problems were symptoms of long covid.

Tests showed he had a six centimetre tumour at the end of his bowel, and Mr Boardman began treatment at hospital which included radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery in August 2021.

By September last year, Mr Boardman was given the all clear from the cancer.

Mr Boardman told Lancs Live: “I had thought it was long covid. I had aching joints, bowel problems and mild flu like symptoms. I did have it in the back of my mind that it might be bowel cancer because my mother and father had died of bowel cancer, so it was always there in the back of my mind.

“I was lucky because I did not have major side effects from the treatment although it made me very tired, and was every day for five weeks.”

Paying tribute to his ‘fantastic’ treatment at Royal Preston Hospital and to the NHS, he said: “The NHS has been fantastic, especially given covid was going on. The treatment was fantastic. I do feel very lucky and very, very grateful.”

Mr Boardman, a native of St Helens who now lives in New Longton in South Ribble, has two grandchildren, Olivia, seven, and Lilly, six.

He retired from his role at BAE Systems on December 31, where he started as an apprentice 42 years ago. He says he is looking forward to spending time on golf and is also a season ticket holder of Man United FC and St Helens RFC.

He added: “’I’m very proud about what we achieved at BAE Systems. I am from the northwest of England, and I feel that we have done a lot to try and help that levelling up, bringing high quality jobs to the region.”

In a video for staff at the company, which employs around 10,000 people at its sites in Warton on the Fylde Coast and Samlesbury, near Blackburn, Mr Boardman made a plea to anyone with symptoms to seek help as soon as possible.

He said: “I wanted to share my story because I think it is important we are open and we talk about issues. I was diagnosed with cancer of the colon earlier this year and that required a fairly intense period of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. I had surgery in the summer and at the end of September it was confirmed the cancer has gone.

“What I learned through this difficult time is that there is no real reason not to reach out. We have a wonderful NHS and we have wonderful people in that service, a vocation to look after people’s health and well-being and preserve life.

“My plea is, please don’t wait. If you have symptoms, please contact your doctor. Just go. It’s not easy but when you have reached out you are in very safe hands with the people who are trained to help and want to help you get better.”

Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel. Depending on where it starts, bowel cancer is sometimes called colon or rectal cancer.

Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK, with most people diagnosed with it being over the age of 60.

Dr Adam Janjua, a GP in Fleetwood and chair of the Fylde Coast Cancer Steering Group, said: “The main symptoms of bowel cancer are blood in your poo, a persistent change in your bowel habit or persistent lower pain in your tummy pain, bloating or discomfort.

“I’m very grateful to Chris for sharing his story and I commend him for acting so quickly. This has clearly saved his life. Bowel cancer is very treatable if we find it early. If you do have any of the symptoms, please don’t hesitate. Contact your GP practice as soon as possible.”

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