When mum-of-two Carys Evans started experiencing mild stomach pains in June last year she decided to visit her GP for reassurance that it was nothing serious.

The 41-year-old had also been losing weight and noticed that her tender belly button had turned from an "innie" into an "outie" like when she was pregnant.

But despite her range of unusual symptoms she never imagined that she would be diagnosed with bowel cancer and told it was past the point of being curable.

"My GP said it sounded like gallstones and sent me for a scan two days later," said Carys, from Monmouthshire.

"I went to the Royal Gwent and the scan showed masses on my bowel and liver. The last thing I expected was to be told it was cancer."

Carys with her daughter Hâf, six
Carys with her daughter Hâf, six

Carys, originally from Anglesey, said she didn't think she would be a candidate for bowel cancer due to her age and lifestyle.

"It was a massive shock. I'm young and I thought I was doing everything right. I would eat a healthy diet and was a keen runner and walker," she said.

"Going through this experience has made me realise there are so many other people my age going through the same thing.

"That's why it's so important for me to raise awareness of the symptoms of bowel cancer and encourage others to seek advice as early as possible if they experience any changes."

Due to the pandemic Carys, who is married to Lee, was on her own when she was told her cancer was incurable.

Carys with her husband Lee
Carys with her husband Lee

She added: "That was really hard. The doctor phoned my husband to tell him the news and then he came to pick me up.

"Having treatment alone has also been really challenging and not having my usual support network or even a cwtsh has been difficult.

"Thankfully with lockdown easing a bit it means I’ll be able to see family and friends a bit more which will be so nice."

Carys with her daughters and her mum
Carys with her daughters and her mum

Carys has completed six months of chemotherapy and is now receiving targeted treatment to keep the disease under control.

"I am receiving Cetuximab and Encorafenib, a relatively new targeted therapy in terms of bowel cancer treatment. It isn’t chemo and this means it could be easier to tolerate physically," she added.

"When people now ask me how I'm feeling I can honestly tell them that I feel pretty well. I do have some joint pain and tiredness but apart from that I'm feeling quite good."

Carys – who has two daughters Hâf, six and Mari, three – decided early on that she wasn’t going to let cancer dominate her life and she deals with the disease like any chronic illness.

Carys and her daughters keeping active in the garden
Carys and her daughters keeping active in the garden

"Life is relatively normal," she said. "We seem to be in a rhythm that allows life and treatment to co-exist.

"I am living with cancer but I don’t want it to consume my life. My mind isn’t full of cancer. My life isn’t about cancer all day every day and I’m sure this is reflected in my outlook and attitude."

And there have been some positives to come out of the situation.

"I've found a new sense of what's important in life, a new appreciation for the love and support of family and friends.

"I've also made some new and inspirational friends and have a renewed sense of who I am."

Writing a blog has been one of the ways Carys has been able to express her feelings as well as connecting with other people facing similar circumstances.

"The blog has been a bit like therapy," she said. "I’m a Welsh-speaker so I blog in Welsh and English. It's a great way to raise awareness and it brings me a lot of comfort to reach out to others."

Carys is now backing Cancer Research UK's Race for Life at Home
Carys is now backing Cancer Research UK's Race for Life at Home

Carys said she is passionate about helping other people affected by the disease which is why she is backing Cancer Research UK's Race for Life at Home on Saturday, April 26.

She is supporting thousands of people from across the UK who have all vowed to run, walk, or jog 5km either alone or in small, socially-distanced groups to raise money for life-saving research.

Carys said she was going to take part but has recently found out she has a small fracture in her pelvis.

"I’ve taken part in the Race for Life a couple of times but this year, due to Covid restrictions, we are being encouraged to take part in Race for Life at Home.

"As someone receiving treatment that was only licensed for use with bowel cancer patients in January this year I know first-hand how important it is to learn more about treating cancer, how it responds, and how it can be managed."

People can visit raceforlife.org to sign up to Race for Life at Home for £5 then receive a race pack which includes a medal. Money raised will help scientists find new ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer, helping to save more lives.

Carys, who had one last message for anyone worried about symptoms, said: "Please go and see your GP. Catching bowel cancer early vastly increases the likelihood of it being cured.

"Don't delay or put off any concerns even if those concerns are a bit embarrassing. Your doctor certainly won't be embarrassed if you turn up to chat about poo."

The symptoms of bowel cancer can include:

To sign up to Race for Life at Home this April visit raceforlife.org or call 0300 123 0770.