|Carol's story (63, QLD)|
The main symptom that led to my diagnosis of bowel cancer was a change in my bowel habits, which I discussed with my GP. I was referred to a gynaecologist who diagnosed a uterine prolapse, which affects the working of the bowel, and was sent to a physiotherapist who put together an exercise program for me to help with the problem. When I went back to the gynaecologist after 12 months as requested, I was still having bowel problems so he recommended a colonoscopy.
I was told I had a carcinoma while I was still coming round from the anaesthetic administered for the colonoscopy; I wasn’t very impressed with the way I was told, in fact, while I was still groggy and vulnerable. But they told me to wait for the result of the biopsy to confirm the diagnosis, which it did. I had a CT/PET scan and MRI a couple of weeks later and they gave us a better picture of what we were dealing with.I had six weeks of chemotherapy (5-FU) and radiotherapy before surgery to remove the cancer. The surgery was a success but I was also given an ileostomy, which was reversed after eight weeks. I know I need the stoma at the time but I was very happy to see it go! It was the last thing I felt like dealing with on top of everything else.
The chemotherapy and radiotherapy really didn’t affect me too badly. I had very few side effects except diarrhoea in my last week and an overall loss of appetite, which I managed by starting on a low residue diet (one that decreases bowel output) on the advice of a dietitian. I had done some research before my surgery and had expected to make some changes to my diet anyway, knowing I would have to slowly reintroduce certain foods when I felt ready.
I had six months off work after surgery and needed every one of them. Even after that time, I still didn’t feel quite ready, so I’m making a slow transition back into work before going full time, which is great.
I have to see my specialist every three months now but, for the time being, I’m free of cancer.