Despite experiencing horrible stomach pains and bloating and visiting a few different GPs about my symptoms, I was told I had IBS and female problems. My mother has Crohns so I finally found a GP who would send me for a colonoscopy to test me for this.
After being on the waiting list for a while I finally had a colonoscopy in April 2011; however, it had to be abandoned due to the extreme pain I suffered during the procedure. I was scheduled to have another colonoscopy as they had found a polyp during the first procedure. This scan never happened until February 2012 and it was at this time a tumour was discovered – it was almost blocking my bowel.
I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in February 2010 at the age of 51. I was seeing a specialist at Toowoomba Hospital about my renal condition. He asked if there were any other health problems; I mentioned the blood in my stool, which I had seen off and on for the last six years. I didn’t think it that important, as I had had ulcerative colitis over the years. My GP did not think it was a concern.
Also I had recently done a FOBT test as part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. It had returned a negative result.
“It’s an unusual birthday present, but it is probably the best gift I have received.”
Ian, a retired merchant seaman, never thought the simple act of emptying his post box would ultimately save his life.
At 65, Ian, like many Australians, was unaware the risk of developing bowel cancer increased with age. He was physically fit and believed he was in good health. As an active fisherman determined to make the most of his retirement, bowel cancer was the last thing on Ian’s mind.
In early November 2010 I noticed some weight loss and a change in my bowel habits, including rectal bleeding. I went to the doctor in mid-November and was diagnosed with anaemia and booked in for a colonoscopy later that month. I was told on the day of the colonoscopy that I had bowel cancer.
The next step was surgery, a high anterior resection, which was done in mid-December.
I was diagnosed with stage one bowel cancer at the age of 62.
Everything seemed to happen so quickly. I took part in the Rotary Bowelscan program in April and in early June received notification that my test results were positive. I saw my GP on 6 June and she booked a colonoscopy for 7 July. Just four days later I was having an x-ray and CT scan, which revealed a 4cm tumour on my sigmoid colon. By the end of July I had seen a surgeon, who recommended an operation to remove the tumour and outlined my treatment options.
I started experiencing a change in my bowel habits, stomach pains and rectal bleeding in February 2010 so I saw my GP and was sent for blood tests to investigate the cause of the problems. The results came back normal. However, a month later when the bleeding persisted I was referred for a colonoscopy in mid April.
The colonoscopy revealed a 4cm tumour on my sigmoid colon.
In May 2011 Mum began losing weight and starting experiencing pain on the right side of her abdomen. A colonoscopy discovered a large mass and she was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer. She was 66.
Mum was treated with surgery and has since had chemotherapy. Sadly three months ago she started finding it difficult to speak. It seemed as though her nerves were not working effectively, causing her to not be able to eat or talk properly. At that point I didn’t have a good feeling about things so we went back to Mum’s doctor. She was sent for an MRI and they spotted secondaries on her brain.
My doctors recommended surgery to remove the tumour as my best option so I went ahead with an operation. No stoma was required. I started chemotherapy after surgery to help minimise the risk of the cancer returning and was given 5-FU, Oxaliplatin, FOLFOX and Leucovorin. The chemotherapy caused a little nausea and made me feel tired at times, but overall it was actually better than I expected. I was given the all clear after surgery but I will know for sure when I have a follow up colonoscopy in August 2012, plus I need to have blood tests every 3 months for the next 12 months.
My story with bowel cancer began in February 2009 but if I’m honest, it began much earlier with symptoms of rectal bleeding and constipation which I didn’t follow up on with my GP. After my mum died, I went through a stage of not looking after myself; just lying on the lounge, eating way too much pizza and drinking excessively. I kept putting my symptoms down to haemorrhoids, bad diet and grief. My constipation was so bad I was twice forced to go to hospital. Scans were done but nothing showed up. On my third visit with constipation the pain was severe and this time they found a tumour which was causing a massive blockage in my bowel.
The hospital was great and they scheduled me for surgery immediately. My wonderful surgeon did a great job and the bowel resection went well. I was feeling great but on the third day I developed pain again and they discovered a perforation at the site where they had re- joined the bowel.
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