Six years ago at 64, I began to notice blood in my stool and reported it straight away to my GP, who referred me to a colorectal surgeon. A colonoscopy revealed cancer and an operation was recommended as my best option. I’d estimate that from the moment I noticed the blood to finally being operated on took no more than six weeks, which isn’t very long to come to terms with the fact of bowel cancer. I was given an ileostomy during surgery, which also took some getting used to.
By the time they caught it, my cancer was very advanced with metastasis to my right kidney, which I also had to have removed. But it has been all good news since then, and all my tests have shown me to be clear of cancer.
I had the ileostomy reversed seven months after surgery, by which I had my diet under control thanks to some very basic nutritional information I had been given. But problems began soon after the ileostomy reversal when I developed serious incontinence, which made performing my daily routines very awkward. Suddenly I had no idea which foods were going to give me trouble so I didn’t know what to expect from one moment to the next. I felt like my specialists weren’t much help in this regard – all they could tell me was to take more anti-diarrheoal medications and avoid spicy foods! Eventually I was put in touch with a continence clinic in Sydney, which helped a little but I still have problems even today.
I never expected to get bowel cancer. I thought I’d be getting out there and enjoying my retirement, not hanging around in hospitals and specialists’ waiting rooms; instead, my whole life was turned upside down and I became quite afraid of leaving the house. As supportive as friends and family are, they can’t realise how much it affects your everyday life. I see things quite differently six years on.
If you have recently been diagnosed with bowel cancer, do everything you can to learn more about the disease and what will happen to you along the way. Don't just take the advice of specialists, whose job it is to treat the cancer, not to care for you afterwards. Seek further advice from the many other professionals who can help, because the help is there if you want it!
Real Life Stories
|Russell's story (72, NSW)|
Let me introduce you to an insidious silent killer.
My name is Russ and I have been a Rotarian for 42 years. It was 1996 when I was asked to take on the role of District Chairman for Rotary Bowelscan, a project designed to raise community awareness of bowel cancer and encourage early detection.