Amanda's bowel cancer story (mother diagnosed age 40's,WA)

My mum was in her mid to late 40s when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer. She died at the age of 50, when I was 27, 11 years ago this year.

Mum had experienced symptoms for some time, starting with bowel upsets, stomach pain and changes in her bowel habits. The doctors suggested it was gastro, then Irritable Bowel Syndrome - you name it, they suggested it. When I look back it felt as though they were fobbing her off. They never suggested looking into what was causing the problems.

After having a bout of bleeding, her GP finally suggested a colonoscopy. During the colonoscopy they found a tumour the size of a doughnut, which had spread through the wall of the bowel and infiltrated her lymph. The specialist believed it could have been there for three to five years considering its advancement.

Mum underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

During the end of her treatment, I was living at home and assisted Mum with the daily cares of her stoma / ileostomy. I also cared for her in the last few weeks when she returned home from travelling to be placed in a hospice. They were not particularly easy times.

I needed support for how to deal with the emotions of wanting the ordeal to be over for her but not wanting her to die, yet realising this was one and the same wish. After her death I pushed everyone I loved away as I believed I was destined to go down the same path and I didn’t want them to have to deal with it like I had.

I was 27 when I had my first colonoscopy in order to have a base line assessment. After having my family, it was suggested I start having colonoscopies to ensure everything was still ok. I will now be on strict two yearly tests to ensure I am ok. After all, it is too important to me and my family not to.

We had no evidence of bowel cancer in our family, so never assume it can’t happen to you or a loved one. Don’t ignore the warning signs, talk about it. If it’s not normal, it’s not normal, you need to deal with it and have it looked at as soon as possible.

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