|Alan's story (48, WA)|
I got my Rotary bowel test kit from a chemist in 2009. The staff was giving them away so I thought I might as well do one. Two weeks later, the results of the test were sent to my GP and they were positive. I was on holiday in New Zealand when I received an email from the surgery asking me to contact my doctor as soon as possible. When I got back, I went straight to my doctor and was told I had bowel cancer.
Looking back I realise I should have gone to the doctor much sooner. I had been seeing blood in my stool from time to time for about three years but had put the bleeding down to haemorrhoids. Thank goodness for that bowel kit, or I might still be oblivious today.
My GP ordered a colonoscopy, which was done about a month later and identified a tumour. I had surgery to remove it three weeks later and was given a colostomy at the same time. After seven months the colostomy was reversed and an ileostomy fitted, which I lived with for another two months. I didn’t like the idea of a stoma in the beginning but now they’ve both been reversed I wish they hadn’t. There are a lot of foods my system just won’t tolerate now, like spicy foods, apples and citrus fruit, and I have to be very careful about my fibre intake. I didn’t have these problems with the colostomy.
Life was generally much easier before bowel cancer. I had serious depressive episodes and mood swings around the time of my diagnosis but thankfully my emotional state has improved now. I was lucky enough to have the support of my wife and parents and our local pastor along the way. Despite that, I know what it’s like to feel isolated by the disease so now I want to help others by sharing my story. People should never ignore symptoms like rectal bleeding. Get it checked as soon as possible and you might be lucky enough to catch the problem early. Don’t ignore it for three years like I did.
It has now been 2 years since my last of 4 operations. I am pleased to say that finally my bowel has settled down. I was incontinent to varying degrees up until recently, and was still experiencing strong abdominal discomfort. Over the space of the last 3 months, all these horrid symptoms have disappeared and I am finally able to lead an almost normal life. If you experience problems similar to mine after surgery, light is at the end of the tunnel – things will get better in time.