Man, 35, Dies of Cancer After Struggling To Get Diagnosed Because of Age

A woman has shared the story of her husband who died of bowel cancer at the age of 35 after struggling to get diagnosed with the disease.

Krunal Sharma, then 34, was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer at the beginning of last year.

At the time, Sharma and his wife had just moved into their first home in Lubbesthorpe, England, and were expecting a baby.

"Life as we knew it brutally changed overnight and 2021 became a year which brought a rollercoaster of turbulence and trauma," the man's wife, Nimisha Sharma, wrote in a blog post for Bowel Cancer UK.

"Krunal and I were just a happily married couple. We were soul mates, seeing life as a fluid journey that we lived in our own way. We lived for each day, making the most of our time together and creating memories to last a lifetime," she said.

Excluding skin cancers, bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. But the condition is usually diagnosed in people over the age of 50.

"It rocked our world," Nimisha Sharma told the BBC, referring to the diagnosis. "On one hand we were celebrating the start of life with the baby that was growing inside of me, but it was overshadowed by the darkness of the cancer that was within Krunal."

In November, 2020, Krunal Sharma began experiencing severe abdominal pain and diarrhea.

"It was like a pain that he had never felt before," his widow said. "He was actually doubled over on the floor, rolling around, and it really scared me.

"This is my six-foot tall, very healthy, very confident husband who I have never seen in such a vulnerable position."

She said the couple made trips to his doctor and a local ER but she felt his symptoms were not taken seriously enough.

Doctors told Sharma that he could have a digestive issue, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or acid reflux, and he was given relevant medication. But after taking the drugs and altering his diet, the symptoms only worsened.

"It was extremely frustrating because it didn't feel like IBS or acid reflux and his symptoms continued to get worse," Nimisha Sharma said. "There weren't any investigations being done, there weren't any referrals made for anything further or for a scan."

"We felt we were being dismissed and overlooked, whether that was down to Krunal looking healthy, his age or the assumption that because he was so young and healthy it couldn't be anything serious."

The painful episodes continued and her husband began experiencing extreme fatigue and rapid weight loss. Most people in the U.K. rely on the state-run National Health Service (NHS) for healthcare. But the couple ended up paying for a private consultation and doctors spotted the cancer after conducting an MRI scan.

By this point, however, the cancer had advanced to stage 4, having spread to different parts of Sharma's body.

Sharma underwent chemotherapy, which temporarily improved his condition, and he was able to witness the birth of his daughter. But the cancer progressed again and became untreatable during an 11-week wait for an operation to remove the tumor.

He passed away just two days after the young family spent their first Christmas together.

"I can't help but wonder whether our situation would have changed if he had been diagnosed earlier," Nimisha Sharma said.

"The delays were there and ultimately that cost him his life. Had they monitored him earlier there could have been a different outlook."

His widow said he had an "amazing, incredible energy and was the "life and soul" of every room he walked into.

"He left a lasting impression on everyone he met," she said.

Nimisha Sharma said she was sharing his story in the hope that it could help others in a similar situation.

"It's important for people to be aware of the things going on inside their body and to get it checked," she said.

"If our story just helps one other person we count that as a win, and if it saves another life then that will be amazing."

Since the man's death, friends and family have raised more than £33,000 ($43,500) for the charity Bowel Cancer UK, which funds research into the disease as well as awareness campaigns

The charity's Chief Executive, Genevieve Edwards, told the BBC that the disease is often missed by doctors in younger people.

"We find that younger people with bowel cancer symptoms quite often go to their GPs (family doctors) several times before they get a diagnosis, and part of that is because it's rare in the under 50s," she said.

"Bowel cancer is treatable, preventable and curable if it's picked up, but it is the biggest killer because people are being diagnosed too late."

In the blog post, Nimisha Sharma said "many things" went wrong in her husband's cancer journey, in hindsight.

"From GPs dismissing Krunal's symptoms to our oncology team dismissing new growth, specialist reports and the entire lack of communication in ensuring swift surgery. It was also never picked up that Krunal had a particularly aggressive type of mutation. Had this been tested, the outcome may have been different," she wrote.

"We've found evidence which says that bowel cancer is more aggressive in young adults with a limited prognosis. We want to raise awareness to make sure young people with advanced cancer get the help they need from early diagnosis. This ultimately saves lives."

The NHS told the BBC that cancer care had remained a priority throughout the COVID pandemic of the last two years.

"Diagnosis and treatment numbers have been back at pre-pandemic levels since last March, with record numbers of urgent referrals over the last 10 months," a spokesperson said.

Newsweek asked the NHS for comment.

A man suffering from bowel pain
Stock image showing a man suffering from bowel pain. Krunal Sharma (not pictured) died of bowel cancer after struggling to get diagnosed with the disease. iStock