Ann's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 37, ACT)

I was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 37, totally unexpected at such a young age.

The only real experience I’d had with the disease was watching my grandfather live with a colostomy bag after the removal of his bowel when I was a child. But I no longer consider this an ‘old man’s disease’.

I had been experiencing rectal bleeding on and off for about six months before I was diagnosed, but it wasn’t until I started feeling stomach pain that I decided to see my GP. 

At first the GP suggested diverticulitis and put me on antibiotics, but they didn’t work. After three or four return visits, the GP referred me to a specialist and I was lucky enough to get an earlier appointment than the one originally given to me for three months later. 

The specialist recommended a colonoscopy and that revealed a tumour; I had surgery (anterior resection of the sigmoid colon) seven weeks later. Fortunately there was no lymph involvement and no metastases, and I did not require a stoma.

I began chemotherapy and experienced mild side effects like Hand-Foot Syndrome, sensitivity to sunlight and hair thinning. In terms of diet, the biggest change has been that I’m not able to process carbohydrates well anymore.

I didn’t really want to ask for help during my treatment – I didn’t want to burden my friends with things too much, so I tried to just deal with it myself. I am truly grateful for all of the help my friends provided when I did get around to asking! I had a harder time coping with my parents’ attitudes; they really let me down when I needed them the most which was very difficult to deal with. Thankfully I have some special people in my life who I can count on for support and help.

I went back to work almost 5 months later and I am now in remission and so far there are no signs of any more cancer. I wanted to tell my story so people know that bowel cancer doesn’t only happen to ‘old people’!

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