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New Keyhole Cancer Appeal fundraising video launched

24 December 2014


A husband and wife from Eastwood who underwent surgery for bowel disease within weeks of each other are featured in a new video launched to raise money for state-of-the-art equipment for Southend Hospital.

Wendy and Gary Barnes both benefited from keyhole surgery, a far less invasive form of treatment than conventional open surgery, which helps patients recover far more quickly and get on with their lives.

Despite undergoing such two major operations within six weeks, the only scarring Gary, 60, has been left with following surgery to remove part of his bowel and then repair it later, is a small dent in his stomach.

For Wendy, 57, whose mother was operated on in the traditional way, the contrast could not be more great - or poignant. "They cut her from top to bottom and she was a mass of scars," she says. "But with Gary the healing has been amazing, just fantastic, and you wouldn't know he had had an operation."

The video shows how our big-hearted community support the hospital in myriad ways - biking, walking and even abseiling 153ft down the tower block at the hospital as well as an interview with lead consultant Mike Dworkin explaining why the equipment is so vital.

It was filmed and produced by Blatella Films at no cost to the hospital.

Watch it on our hospital website, or visit our charity twitter, Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Our Keyhole Cancer Appeal

Southend Hospital's Keyhole Cancer Appeal aims to raise £600,000 to provide a 21st century laparoscopic (keyhole surgery) theatre suite at the hospital. It will mean that our surgeons can perform the latest and most complex keyhole procedures for patients undergoing cancer and general surgery.

Hundreds of Southend patients stand to benefit each year. They include those suffering with bowel and prostate cancer as well as a number of gynaecological conditions. In the past, the majority of these patients would have had to have had open surgery which would have meant longer stays in hospital, longer recovery times and more pain and scarring.What is the Keyhole Cancer Appeal?

Wendy and Gary's story

Wendy and Gary Barnes have been together for 39 years and married for 29. They work together and share the same leisure interests. So friends and family were hardly surprised when they both had to undergo surgery for bowel disease within weeks of each other.

The devoted couple's amazing double act began when Gary took himself off to his GP after experiencing what he describes as 'funny turns' which had him rushing off to the loo.

He was sent for a colonoscopy and, as he watched the scan on the screen, he knew it was not good: "It looked just like the pictures on the TV cancer awareness campaign."

Despite having had no previous warning signs, Gary had developed stage 3 cancer. What surprised the couple most was that it was Wendy who'd always been more at risk: both her mother and aunt - identical twins - had had the disease.

Gary said: "The diagnosis came as a massive shock. I could so easily have ignored the symptoms."

He was immediately started on an intensive regime of chemo- and radiotherapy to shrink the tumour - but throughout it all, still turned up for work every day at the clothing section of Tesco's Prince Avenue superstore, where Wendy also works.

He says: "I was lucky. I didn't get a lot of side effects. I did everything I was told and breezed through the treatment."

Twelve weeks later, Gary underwent keyhole surgery, carried out by consultant gastroenterology surgeon Miss Esther Fine. She removed the tumour via a tiny cut in Gary's abdomen.

At the end of the seven-hour operation, Miss Fine called Wendy, who was at home with sons Max and Sam and her own twin sister, to say it had all gone fine.

Wendy said: "Esther almost became part of the family. She was so lovely all the way through."

Since the op, Gary has had a reversal of the ileostomy which was carried out at the time, and is feeling great, although he still has regular checks and keeps in touch with his colorectal cancer nurse specialist Jacquie Joels.

But neither of them was prepared for the bombshell early last year while Gary was still having his treatment and Wendy went for one of the three-yearly checks she is required to have due to her family history.

"My scan was overdue but my twin sister chivvied me to go as she had had pre-cancerous polyps removed. The colonoscopy showed I had too had some which would definitely have turned into cancer."

She ended up having one-third of her bowel removed last July - and once again the op was performed by Miss Fine.

Wendy said: "I just could not believe I could also have keyhole surgery. When my mum and aunt had theirs, it was long and gruelling. They were in hospital at least three weeks and had great long scars right down their abdomen.  Mine was all done through my belly button and I was home in three days. You would never know I had had anything done."

Gary said: "Neither of us could have had better treatment if we'd paid five-star prices. From start to finish everyone has been fantastic."

To show their gratitude, Gary walked over the dome of Greenwich's O2 building, raising £1300 for our Keyhole Cancer Appeal. The couple's sons, Sam, 29, and Max, 28, also look part.