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‘I had bowel cancer for three hours’: Cults police superintendent’s inspiring health journey

Elaine Logue, 47, has a story to tell about bowel cancer. Do you want the long version or the short?

Elaine Logue near her home on Cults. The 47-year-old has learned to live with the effects of her bowel cancer. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson
Elaine Logue near her home on Cults. The 47-year-old has learned to live with the effects of her bowel cancer. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Elaine Logue likes to tell people she had cancer for three hours.

As with all the best stories it’s not strictly true. But it contains enough truth for Elaine to get away with it.

And anyway, once you’ve heard the true story, you can forgive Elaine a bit of poetic license. The real version might take longer to tell, but it is even more incredible.

It includes a harrowing phone call in an Aldi car park, a stoma bag with its own personality and a close-up look at guilt, one of cancer’s lesser-talked about side-effects.

Along the way, Elaine — 47 and a police superintendent with the north-east division — finds new friends and inspiration in a charity fashion show she will take part in next month.

Elaine is a police superintendent with the north-east division. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

And there is also the lowest point of her entire cancer journey; when her mum died just five weeks after her life-saving bowel surgery.

A story of survival and acceptence

But perched on the sofa at her home in Cults, tucked in beside partner Andy Forrest, whose hand she reaches for during the more upsetting parts, the story Elaine tells is not about grief, or sadness, though it contains elements of both.

It is one of survival, and of acceptance. Most importantly, it is a reflection of what it is like to get cancer in an age when modern medicine has — in some cases, anyway — a better than average chance of treating it.

Andy Forrest and Elaine Logue together at their home in Cults. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Not everybody gets to have cancer for just three hours. But many do live past it, and learn to live with the consequences.

“So many people hear the tragic stories, and there are far too many of them and each and every one is desperately sad,” says Elaine as she squeezes Andy’s hand.

“But there are so many people who have cancer that don’t die from it. Your life can go on.”

The phone call that changed everything

In almost every cancer story, there is that one moment when everything changes; a phone call or a conversation that splits a life into two. There is the time before, and then there is everything that comes after.

For Elaine, that moment just happened to arrive in the Aldi car park on Countesswells Road.

It was last August, and she’d started getting stomach pains. Her GP found a lump so referred her immediately to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Elaine received the bad news in an Aldi car park. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

By September, the stomach pains were worse. This time her doctor asked Elaine to do a FIT (faecal immunochemical test), which looks for blood traces in a poo sample, which can be a symptom of bowel cancer.

On a Friday night as she and Andy were about to come back in the car from shopping at Aldi, her mobile rang. It was Elaine’s doctor, who said the test results were back.

“She told me that before she was worried,” says Elaine, “and now she is very worried.”

A colonoscopy and CT scan were arranged for October and, a couple days before the procedures, Elaine did the prep, which includes taking a liquid that makes sure the bowels move.

But as she waited to go to hospital for the scans, the pain started. She describes it as “incredible”, the worst she has felt. By that evening, she was writhing on the floor vomiting uncontrollably.

She was rushed to hospital, where CT scans revealed that Elaine had bowel cancer. In three hours she would be taken into surgery to have the tumour removed.

“And that’s where I get having cancer for three hours from,” says Elaine.

Tears and emotion as stoma bag reality hits home

The surgery successfully removed the tumour, and Elaine quickly recovered from the operation.

But getting used to the stoma bag she now wore was a lot more difficult.

Nine days after getting out of hospital, Elaine went to a work night out. It was just for a couple of hours, but she was determined to get all dressed up, just like she would have done before the cancer, and before being fitted with a stoma bag.

Elaine drinking a mocktail on the night out with her work colleagues. She says she cried all the way to the venue. Image: Elaine Logue

“I looked in the mirror and I was just…,” says Elaine, holding tightly on to Andy’s hand. “I cried all the way there, I think.”

She adds: “It just struck me that outwardly I could look the same way I had looked before, but I knew I was never going to be the same.”

Why Elaine felt guilty about having bowel cancer

There were other factors at play.

Elaine talks a lot about the guilt she felt with her cancer — the perceived burden she placed on family and friends who were helping her get to hospital appointments, for example.

There was also guilt within her relationship with Andy. His wife Angela died six years ago after contracting a very rare blood disease called aplastic anemia.

It put Andy and his three children through a harrowing ordeal.

This was one of the first things Elaine thought as she sat with Andy in that Aldi car park. She even said to him that, if he wanted it, she would just walk out of his life. It might be, she thought, the right thing to do.

Andy and Elaine on holiday together. Image: Elaine Logue

“At that point, I wasn’t worried about me,” she says, sitting on the couch in Cults, looking at Andy. “I just thought I can’t do this to him again. I can’t do it to the girls.”

A shocking moment, and more guilt

Those feelings passed. But then five weeks after Elaine’s surgery, her mum died from a stroke.

This time, Elaine’s guilt was that the stroke was brought on by the stress of dealing with her cancer. She knows her mum’s health issues were deeper than that but she could not get the thought out of her head, especially as at that time she was still recovering from a major operation.

Andy and Elaine at home. ‘I just thought I can’t do this to him again.’ Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

“I suppose I didn’t have the energy for the emotional side at that point,” Elaine says.

Her mum died on December 19. Christmas, says Elaine, was a blur. The funeral was on January 10.

Elaine faces her recovery head-on

Four months on from that low-point, Elaine is doing much better.

“I’m not the kind of person to shy away from a challenge,” she says.

Physically, she is great. She’s back in the gym and though she is still on leave from the police she talks about getting back to work at some point.

“It’s known as a demanding job and it’s long hours, so it’s knowing that when I go back I’m fit to be able to cope with it.”

Elaine is feeling a lot better. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

She has also built an unlikely friendship with her stoma bag, which she calls Poppy after her niece’s favourite song from the Trolls movie. Like all the best friendships, however, it’s not without complications.

“For me there will always be that little demon in my head that makes me think I’ve got something to hide and I should be ashamed,” she says. “But I’m not ashamed. It saved my life.”

A beach walk with Poppy that will test Elaine

This summer, Elaine will take a short but important walk with Poppy.

The family have booked a cruise around the Mediterranean and Elaine has already picked out the bikini she intends to wear on the beach.

“It will be hard and there probably will be tears. It might take me two or three attempts to get through the door and to remove my shorts and top.”

Elaine and Poppy. ‘It saved my life.’ Image: Elaine Logue

She adds: “[But] if I don’t do it this year, I’m never going to do it and I’m going to spend the rest of my life hiding, and I don’t want that.”

At her back, will be her family, as well as 23 other people that until a few months ago she didn’t even know.

On May 18 and 19, Elaine will take part in Courage on the Catwalk, the charity fashion show held annually by Aberdeen-based cancer charity Friends of Anchor.

Signing up for the event, which has as its models north-east women who have experienced cancer or blood disease, was part of Elaine’s journey back to normalcy.

Andy and Elaine are taking a cruise around the Med this summer. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Walking down the catwalk in front of 1,500 people over two nights was a chance to do something out of her comfort zone.

Through it she has formed immediate bonds with her fellow participants, all of whom understand those feelings of guilt and self-consciousness.

“If I’m having a tough moment, at any point, those women will be in my head,” Elaine says. “I’ll have those 23 other voices going, you’ve got this.”

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