Merlin Griffiths warns of ‘horrible’ cancer symptoms

Merlin Griffiths says he is 'doing well' after Bowel cancer diagnosis

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Former rugby union player, Matt Dawson, 49, and beloved First Dates barman, Merlin Griffiths, 47, have come together to speak about the dangers of bowel cancer, after both having personal connections to the disease. Merlin, who was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer in 2021, is currently undergoing treatment and Matt, who lost his grandfather to the condition at the age of 60, and more recently his mother was diagnosed with the disease in her late 50s.

Explaining more about his condition exclusively to, Merlin, who is best known from Channel 4’s First Dates, shared: “My experience with bowel cancer so far has not been nearly as bad as others who have had it.

“Cancer is still pretty horrible but bottom line, compared to what others have gone through I think I have been very lucky.”

When asked what his diagnosis was like, and why he felt the need to go to the doctors in the first place, Merlin continued to say: “It was persistent and largely unexplainable change in bowel habits that triggered it for me.

“Obviously there is the weight loss, lumps in the tummy, or blood in your poo that you look for, but another one I had was extreme tiredness. But that was only noticeable with hindsight.

“I would have these odd days once in a while where I would just drop and I wouldn’t be able to do anything.”

Working as a bartender, Merlin put his unexplainable symptoms down to the long hours he worked, especially as he stayed up until the early hours of the morning.

Having put one of his most concerning symptoms down to lifestyle habits, Merlin was motivated even more to speak about his experience, to try and encourage others not to make the same mistake.

He added: “These symptoms individually or even together, you could be tempted not to worry about them, because chances are they are ok. But this is what Stay On Track is all about. Despite the fact that you could tell yourself ‘It isn’t cancer’ if you don’t get yours checked in time it could turn out worse.

“I didn’t get mine checked in time. I should have got mine checked a good six to eight months before and I would have been in a better place.”

Meanwhile, due to Matt’s family history with bowel cancer, he now has regular tests in order to ensure he remains healthy.

When asked if he has ever personally had a cancer scare, Matt told “I haven’t personally had a scare.

“I was tested when I was sort of in my late 30s. And this year is a big year for me being 50, so I will absolutely be making the most of being able to get my GP to send me a test and, give that a go and see how that works out, so I can talk about it to people and talk about that experience with people.”

Like Matt and Merlin suggest, early diagnosis of bowel cancer is vital as it gives the best opportunity for survival.

Together the pair are supporting Bowel Cancer UK’s Stay on Track campaign with Norgine, which aims to encourage awareness of bowel cancer symptoms and uptake of colonoscopies to ensure early detection of bowel cancer.

The campaign was developed after a new survey of more than 2000 adults aged 18 and over in the UK showed that individuals often wait three months or longer before seeing their GP with potential bowel cancer symptoms.

When asked if he was embarrassed about his symptoms, Merlin said again that he counted himself lucky, as he doesn’t often get embarrassed about those things.

He added: “I do understand why a lot of people do get embarrassed but trust me when I say, especially after the way I have been poked and prodded, there is nothing doctors and nurses haven’t seen. It is okay to talk about poo.”

One of those people who helped to debunk the stigma surrounding bowel cancer was Dame Deborah James, who Matt and Merlin were both inspired by and hold in admiration after she died in June aged 40.

When asked how important individuals like Dame Deborah were to raising awareness for cancer, Matt said: “Deborah, was absolutely amazing. To give such insight into a journey, the awareness that she gave the world about bowel cancer was incredible.

“There is no question she has shifted the dial when it comes to awareness of this cancer. Unfortunately, I never got to meet her but a while back I went and spoke to Lorraine Kelly about her.

“Even in the latter part of her life, the energy and enthusiasm and knowledge she gave was just mind blowing. away. We should all be incredibly thankful to her.”

Giving an update about his condition and treatment, Merlin said: “I have done chemotherapy, I have done chemoradiotherapy, and I have had keyhole surgery as well. I am waiting for final bits of healing. I have a stoma as well, so after another colonoscopy fingers crossed that will be able to be reversed.”

Stay on Track is a campaign with Merlin Griffiths and Matt Dawson, in partnership with Norgine and Bowel Cancer UK, which aims to raise awareness of bowel cancer and the importance of screening, testing and early diagnosis. For more information:

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