I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in May 2010 at the age of 31.
My bowel habits had started to change about two years before, including small amounts of blood on the toilet paper, but I had been told earlier that I had a haemorrhoid so I thought that might explain the bleeding. I was also diagnosed with anaemia just before I fell pregnant about a year after; I would later learn that anaemia can be an indicator of bowel cancer.
It wasn’t until two months after giving birth that I went to see my GP about the bleeding, who referred me to a specialist for a sigmoidoscopy. Three weeks after my initial appointment, I was given a colonoscopy and the surgeon who performed it told me they had probably found cancer. Later that week I had an MRI and a CT scan and the diagnosis was confirmed. Thankfully no secondary cancers were found.
I was given five weeks of chemotherapy and radiotherapy to reduce the tumour, which resulted in burns on my bottom and lower back, burning during urination towards the end of the treatment, and possible infertility. I then progressed to surgery in September, where they removed 20 cm of bowel and fitted a temporary ileostomy, which was removed in March 2011.
I was given the option to take part in a clinical trial called the Petacc 6 Trial, which involved being treated with intravenous oxaliplatin combined with capecitabene in tablet form, and I agreed.
My last scan was in September 2011 and it was completely clear. I am confident now that things are going to be OK but I wish I had sought a second opinion early on, after the haemorrhoid diagnosis. Things could have been very different if I had.
My appetite was suppressed during my early treatment and that affected my diet significantly, but I’ve since gone back to normal and am lucky enough to be able to eat anything. The best piece of dietary advice I received was to eat lots of fibre and take Metamucil.
My family, especially my partner and my parents, have been so supportive throughout. My mum has lived through a breast cancer diagnosis so I think she can really understand what I’ve been going through. Emotionally, the experience has definitely left its mark. I worry about the future much more than I did before my diagnosis, and I get paranoid about every little ache and pain now in case it’s cancer. But I know I have to stay positive and our two-year-old son is more than enough reason to try.
This whole experience has taught me that you are never too young to get bowel cancer and that if you notice anything strange within your body to get it checked out and trust yourself - not always your GP.