As a registered nurse for over 30 years, I understand the value of good health and pride myself in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I see my GP every year for routine blood tests and always attend for routine mammogram when requested. However, when the bowel screening test arrived, I put it in a cupboard until I had time. With no family history of bowel cancer and no change in bowel habit, I felt it was a low priority. The subject of bowel screen kits came up in conversation with friends one morning over coffee. Both of my friends had taken the test and were telling me how simple it was. My test had been sitting in the cupboard for almost a year, but this conversation persuaded me to take it when I got home.
I was surprised to receive news of a positive result in the mail two weeks later, but I did as advised and made an appointment to see a gastroenterologist for a colonoscopy. The colonoscopy identified two polyps, the larger of which was unexpectedly found to be malignant. To ensure there was no spread beyond the removed polyp, the gastroenterologist referred me to a colorectal surgeon who advised that surgery was required.
My diagnosis was completely unexpected and very confronting especially as I felt perfectly fit and healthy… yet I was being told I would need major surgery as soon as possible. Despite my confusion, I remained hopeful that the malignancy had been found early and that proved to be the case with no spread found. I was very fortunate that the screening test identified the growth at such an early stage.
I had an anterior bowel resection within four weeks of my diagnosis, and the post-operative period was fairly close to what was expected. I was unable to work for several months as my body adjusted to the changes, the most major one being my diet. A nutritionist at the hospital advised me what foods to eat and what foods to avoid (such as roughage immediately following my surgery), but it is still a process of trial and error. I was very lucky not to require further treatment but I will need a follow-up colonoscopy in 12 months time.
The support I have received from my husband, family and many friends has been wonderful. I really benefited from my specialists providing me with a comprehensive description of the operation and what to expect during my recovery. I knew what would happen at every step of the way so there were no surprises and everything went exactly to plan. I was in the care of two very competent specialists who made me feel safe at all times. The nursing care I received was exceptional, which also contributed to my positive experience. Thanks to the screening test and early diagnosis, I can now look forward to a healthy future.