Antonella's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 50, VIC)

In September 2011 I was feeling unwell and always feeling full even when I wasn’t eating and felt as though I was gaining weight especially around tummy area.
My husband & I had just shifted to Melbourne from Mildura (2010) and we were building a new house. I thought that maybe I was exhausted and stressed.
I started walking again thinking that maybe this would help my mind, but that did not help. I was still feeling full and tummy pains increased.
I went and saw our family doctor and he too thought my condition was stress related. There is no history of any cancer in our family, however we thought it could have been related to another health condition I have....SLE.
During the next couple of months I watched what I was eating because we thought I could be intolerant to some foods. I did not eat bread and was also cutting out some fruits, due to the pain when I ate these. I also reduced my coffee intake, just to see if any of these things were the cause.
Late 2011 I received the newest screening kit. I packed it away thinking that what I was feeling had nothing to do with my bowel.

My husband was constantly annoying me to do the screening as he had and was happy with results.
After many discussions early November, I decided to take the test. Sent it off and received notification on 27th November that I had to see my doctor.
Visits to specialists, CT scans, blood tests, ultrasounds you name it.
On the 14th December I had my first colonoscopy where two polyps were found. One was removed the other was left as the specialist said it looked suspicious.
Three long days later we were told what everyone could not believe.

The polyp was cancerous.

So we were off to see a surgeon.
As it was close to Christmas we were concerned that I had to wait for the surgery. (But someone bigger than all of us was watching over me!!!)
My surgeon had booked me in to remove the polyp and 15-20cm of my bowel.

The whole time I believed that once it was removed I would be ok.

I was soooo naive!!!!
After the surgery I was given the devastating news that I had microscopic cancer cells in my lymph nodes. Not understanding this I was devastated and thought that was it.
That is until we met with my Oncologist who was my lifesaver.
Yes my oncologist was very clear and kept emphasising what he was going to do and clarifying whatever we asked. He wanted us to think about our options and think before deciding what I wanted to do.
My options were chemotherapy using tablets or infusion. He clearly explained the benefits of both options.
My oncologist was from day one a compassionate and caring man but also very down to earth and matter of fact. He did not promise miracles just that he would do whatever he could to eliminate the microscopic cancer cells.
Being diagnosed with Bowel Cancer really rattled my family and me.

I also felt like it was not really happening (out of body experience) even though I was experiencing tremendous pain and nausea.
My family was beyond exceptional. They were always there cheering me up and talking me through what I was experiencing, especially my husband who was there with me every step of the way.
My son and daughter in law were getting married on the 23rd January 2011 and I had to be well enough to attend this special event, after my bowel surgery.
And the other news that gave me greater determination to beat this experience was that my daughter and her husband were having their first child - our first grandchild when my treatment concluded.
So I had to be strong for his birth. And I was!!!!
These factors were what I/we focused on throughout my treatment. When I felt down everyone reminded me that I HAD to get better as I HAD to be around for my grandson’s birth and .......... for ALL my future grandchildren.
Thank God I am a survivor and am now a nonna (grandma) to three beautiful grandchildren and another on the way.
My daughter and son in law have two gorgeous little boys and my son and daughter in law have a beautiful little girl and another due in October 2016.
I feel blessed and so glad that my husband convinced me to take the Bowel Screening test and that I was diagnosed early enough to be able to be here and continue to live.
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