|Mary's story (43, VIC)|
Unlike many people, I had severe symptoms for some time before I got my diagnosis. For four weeks during the time of seeing my doctor and being diagnosed I had very bad stomach pains and was completely unable to eat.
My condition continued to deteriorate all the time – the stomach pain came and went, becoming sharper and more intense as time passed, and I was generally very sick. By the end of this 4 week period, I was unable to walk.
During this time I saw four GPs, each of whom had a different opinion about what was wrong with me and even when I was eventually hospitalised the bowel cancer wasn’t picked up.
During my second round of scans, ultrasounds showed that my bowels were blocked, so I was treated for constipation. After a week in hospital and four weeks of being very ill, the doctors performed a colonoscopy and finally discovered the bowel cancer. It was grade III by the time they found it. I started on a six-month course of chemotherapy, which made me feel nauseous and tired and destroyed my appetite altogether.
Looking back, I realise I knew nothing about bowel cancer – after all, I had no family history of the disease and I’d led a very healthy life, so why would I? It should never have happened to me. It was a very steep learning curve and a lot to come to terms with in a very short time, particularly the temporary stoma that came with my bowel resection.
I’ve been battling bowel cancer for four years now, and had a liver resection in 2008. The cancer recently metastasised to my stomach. Right now I have ascites and I’m having more chemotherapy.
I have days when I feel good – strong and positive about my prospects – and low days when I feel sick and lifeless, and in pain. But on my bad days, I feel very lucky to have a loving family and supportive friends, and my work, which helps me to focus on things other than my health.
But no matter how supportive your friends and family are, they can’t ever fully comprehend the fears, doubts and emotions you experience. Having bowel cancer has been a lonely journey.
But I am a fighter and I will remain strong and continue to very much hope that I will beat the cancer. It takes a lot of inner strength, courage, hope and belief to remain positive and bright about the future.