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Stuart Simpson, 56, was initially sent home from the doctor with indigestion in April after experiencing pain in his side. As symptoms worsened, they found out it was stage 4 bowel cancer. Unfortunately, the cancer had already spread to the liver and lungs.

The “kind, caring, and loving” father from Nottingham, England as described by his ex-partner, Joanne Nunns to YorkshireLiveneedless to say, was heartbroken.

When Stuart and Joanne met, her three-year-old daughter, Amber, now 25, took a strong liking to the native Zimbabwean (Nunn is originally from South Africa, which borders Eastern Africa where Simpson was born), and he took care of her like she was his own. Amber, who was closer to Simpson than her real father while growing up, now has two children that Simpson took under his wing as well.

The couple also had a son together, Samuel, now 18. “Eventually our love broke down but our friendship stayed really strong,” Nunn explained of their special relationship. “He became like a brother to me after that.”

Related: ‘Screw You, Cancer!’ Says Brave BBC Host Deborah James, 40, After Raising $1 Million for Bowel Cancer Research in Just 24 Hours as She Battles the Disease

Tragically, Simpson died just two months after his initial trip to the hospital. After his actual diagnosis, when Nunn picked up from the hospital to take him home, he didn’t even make it past a few days because of how advanced the cancer was.

Simpson—who is remembered as an avid reader and nature-lover—was robbed of the chance to even try to start treatment.

The late father Stuart Simpson pictured with his son, Samuel, now 18.

“We still haven’t even got the biopsy results. He would’ve probably gone on to chemotherapy if he’d been strong enough but we didn’t even get time for that,” Nunn said. “We thought we had longer with him, but obviously not.”

Even though the extended family is still in shock, they take comfort in knowing that Stuart “is at peace and no longer in pain or suffering.”

Facing a Cancer Diagnosis as a Single Parent

Understanding Bowel Cancer

Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel, says the National Health Service. Depending on where the cancer starts, bowel cancer is sometimes called colon or rectal cancer, or colorectal cancer.

Related: Father Of 3, 40, Rapidly Losing Weight Thinks He’s Just Overworking: It Turned Out To Be Bowel Cancer

In the United Kingdom, bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed. It typically presents in people over the age of 60, but there have been many younger people getting it in recent years. In the US, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women, excluding skin cancers.

This type of cancer most often spreads to the liver, like in Stuart’s case, but can also spread to the lungs, lymph nodes, or abdominal cavity lining.

Symptoms of colon cancer

dr Paul Obersteindirector of the Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology Program at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, previously told SurvivorNet a few common symptoms of the disease to look out for:

  • Change in bowel movements — sudden changes to the size, consistency or caliber of stool
  • Change in stool color — bright red or black stool is a sign that an individual should seek medical attention
  • Pain in the abdomen—unusual discomfort or bloating of the stomach. In the case of women, pain is not related to the menstrual cycle.
  • Sudden and unexplained weight loss—rapid drop in weight that isn’t the result of diet or exercise
  • Anemia — Individuals who feel a general sense of malaise or faintness, or are constantly tired or weak much more than usual, may want to consult a doctor.

Many symptoms of bowel cancer are similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome, so make sure to consult with your doctor.

Learn more about SurvivorNet’s rigorous medical review process.

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