A Truro nurse has been recognised for her pioneering work supporting bowel cancer patients and their families living in remote parts Cornwall.

Candy Coombe, a colorectal nurse from Truro, has won a national achievement award from the charity Beating Bowel Cancer. Candy, who has worked at Royal Cornwall Hospital for twelve years, has set up the Cornwall Bowel Cancer Support Group alongside the charity.

As a colorectal nurse, Candy has daily contact with people experiencing bowel cancer who, alongside their treatment, often benefit from the support of others experiencing similar life changes. Bringing people physically together can prove challenging, especially if they live in remote areas of the county, so Candy found the perfect solution by setting up a Facebook support group and now they have over eighty members.

Candy received her award from the charity Beating Bowel Cancer at its annual ‘Patient Day’ at the Royal College of Surgeons in London this month. 

Candy, a mother of two said: “When I heard that I had won the award, I was both shocked and surprised; it took a day or two for the news to actually sink in.”

The Facebook group is celebrating its first anniversary and Candy says how surprised she was at the up-take in numbers.

“At first there was a bit of scepticism over using social networking, thinking it was more for young people, but the reality is very different. Our members’ ages span from over 70 to 30. At the start, people were a bit shy, but now there are lots of conversations, and members have really gained strength from each other in the support that’s been shared," said Candy.

Mark Flannagan, chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, said: ‘We wanted to reward Candy for her pioneering work helping others through the use of social media. We’ve been incredibly impressed with the help and support Candy is offering patients in Cornwall and we’re so grateful for her support.”

Almost 41,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year in the UK and it is the second biggest cancer killer. Yet over 90% of cases can be treated successfully if caught in the early stages.

Beating Bowel Cancer advises people to go to the GP if they have any of the following symptoms for three weeks or more: • A change in bowel habit • Bleeding from the bottom or blood in your bowel motions • Pain or lump in your abdomen • Unexplained tiredness, dizziness or breathlessness • Unexplained weight loss