Team Connell take on Harlech Triathlon with important message about Bowel Cancer Awareness

Published: 30.03.2022

Arthur Connell, along with his wife Catherine have been regulars at our events over the past few years with Catherine winning our Savage Adventure Triathlon Series in 2019 and Arthur taking 1st in his age group in our Snowman Triathlon just last year. However, In August last year, Arthur noticed something wasn't quite right with his health. Below he tells us his story from his diagnosis of Bowel Cancer to being back to racing with us at the Harlech Triathlon this weekend.

Hello everyone, my name is Arthur Connell, I'm married to superstar triathlete and superstar wife, Catherine Connell. As some of you may be aware, Catherine won the Always Aim High Events Savage triathlon series in 2019. My achievements haven't quite matched up to hers but I did finish 1st in my age group and top ten in the notoriously tough Snowman Legend triathlon held on August the 1st. I also finished 3rd in the ROC in September 2021 and then completed the race again the following day. I was the only person to complete the double ROC for which I received a lot of kind praise from fellow competitors and spectators. I won my age group in the Abersoch Sprint triathlon mid-October and ran a 1hr 26min half marathon at the end of the month in near-hurricane conditions on tired legs much in need of some downtime.

I had noticed a very small amount of blood in my stools around mid-August time (I can't remember exactly when I first noticed this). My memory of the exact timing is a bit hazy but I think I told my wife about it and she told me to order a faecal immunochemical test (FIT) test via an e-consult. The FIT test is used to detect small amounts of human haemoglobin (a sign of blood) in the stool. I needed a fair bit of reminding to do this as I was convinced that I had nothing to worry about and that the small amount of blood now and again was just haemorrhoids or caused by spending hours on a bike seat etc. After more persistent encouragement from my wife, I got around to doing the FIT test in late October. The test came back positive and two weeks later (13th of November) the colorectal team at Ysbyty Gwynedd found a 5cm tumour, 8cm from my rectum, hanging off the bowel wall. A biopsy was taken on the day and within two weeks both CT and MRI scans had been completed. The presurgical diagnosis and prognosis were that the tumour was malignant but hadn't grown deep into the bowel wall, no lymph nodes were infected and the cancer hadn't spread to other organs, therefore the aim was curative surgery. After surgery, the aforementioned diagnosis and prognosis was confirmed definitively. Due to complications, I ended up in surgery three times (a little bit like doing a swim, bike and run but slightly more painful). All of the staff at Ysbyty Gwynedd worked incredibly hard, I don't know how they put up with me. I owe my life to my amazing wife, Catherine Connell. I wouldn't have gone to see the doctor until it was too late, it's impossible to put my praise into words for all her support.

With the benefit of hindsight, I should have noticed unusual bowel habits developing over the last few years. Between 2018 and 2021 my bowel movements were more frequent and less predictable. I thought this was due to increasing my training hours or due to increased fibre intake etc. My advice would be: if you notice any change in bowel habit or any blood in your stools order a FIT test and get checked out. I don't want to scare anyone with this post but I know as athletes we get used to pushing through tough times and can always think of a million reasons that our bodies might be behaving in a certain way. Please pay attention to red flags with regards to your health and remember, even if you can complete the ROC two days in succession it doesn't mean that you haven't got stage two bowel cancer.

I'm now living with an ileostomy but have managed my first park run seven weeks after my third surgery. If there is anyone else out there who has a stoma and wants to get in touch to discuss training advice etc then feel free to contact the team at Always Aim High Events and they can put you through to me. Thanks for reading my post.

Team Connell took on their first race since Arthur’s major surgery at Harlech Triathlon this weekend, Arthur swam and biked then Catherine brought it home on the run

In his own words;
“We won the team prize and finished 13th overall, we could’ve been top ten had I not faffed around in T1 for nearly 3mins doh!!!!!! Many thanks to all other competitors, marshals and Always Aim High Events for a brilliant race. Extra thanks to my amazing wife Cat for making me do these things and supporting me every step of the way.

Physically I’m doing well but mentally I’m a bit fragile and would have chosen to stay in bed rather than get up before 5am and drive to Harlech to start a Triathlon at 7.30am. Many thanks to the lady who introduced herself and told me she’s been living with an ileostomy for the last 20 years and has even had part of her small bowel removed, some people have a deal. Da iawn pawb.”