Stacey B's story (29, WA)
I went to my GP in early 2009 complaining of tiredness and lethargy, rectal bleeding and a change in my bowel habits. But because of my age and the fact that I had recently given birth, I was given only a blood test and told that further investigation wouldn’t be necessary. The blood test showed low iron levels so my tiredness was put down to that.
I knew something wasn’t right so I kept going back to the doctor but would end up seeing someone different every time – I live in the country and we depend on a rotation of visiting GPs. One of these doctors gave me an internal examination to test for haemorrhoids but found nothing. I was finally given the test I needed in June 2010 after my dad had a colonoscopy and was told by his specialist to get the rest of our family tested. My test revealed a tumour at stage two, possibly three.
A month later I began a six-week course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I had surgery to remove the tumour after a six-week treatment break, and was fitted with a temporary stoma at the same time. I then had nine rounds of chemotherapy in a six-month period.
I expect the colostomy will be reversed after about nine months. It has been manageable but quite annoying, if I’m honest, and I have received very little useful dietary advice. The stoma has had a huge impact on my diet as it makes eating fruit and vegetables extremely difficult.
The chemotherapy and radiotherapy caused a few side effects, including nausea, diarrhoea, fatigue, headaches, sensitivity to cold and loss of appetite, though I’m not sure which treatment caused which symptom.
My bowel cancer diagnosis had a huge impact on me emotionally. Some days are good, other days not so good. I find I look at life a lot differently than I used to.
My advice to anyone thinking they may have a problem, please go to your GP and request a colonoscopy. You know your own body better than anyone else and if you aren’t happy with the first diagnosis you get, then keep seeing a doctor until you get to the bottom of your problems. I only wish I had done this instead of believing them every time they said you are too young etc. Age is not a factor anymore.