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

"Whilst I have a way to go before I can say I'm cancer free, I reckon things are looking pretty rosy."
Back in October 2014, I received what I now refer to as my "gift pack" for turning 50 from the Victorian Government.

I decided to visit my GP to discuss the kit in more detail. I had experienced intermittent rectal bleeding along with loose bowel movements so my GP organised a colonoscopy to determine the health of my bowel. During the procedure a low rectal polypoid was discovered and a subsequent biopsy confirmed a cancerous tumour.

In early November I was referred to a colorectal surgeon at the St John of God in Geelong. A series of tests – Abdo & Chest CT, Bloods along with an MRI – confirmed I had a B grade tumour. I was also referred to a radiation oncologist and a medical oncologist.

On November 10, I met with my oncologist who organised a radiation mapping session along with more blood tests, another CT scan, 4 new tattoos and my 25 "Zaps" radiation program which commenced on November 27. My oncologist later talked me through a chemotherapy program and how it was going to be delivered.

Everything kicked off on November 26 with the install of a Hickman's Line in my chest and the commissioning of a pump which contained 5FU. Along the way I had a few challenges. The Hickman's Pump didn't settle in as well as expected and had to be removed due to a thrombosis in my neck.

By early January 2015, the first phase of my chemo and radiation treatment was done and dusted. I was almost back to my old self and thankfully 5.5kg lighter. I had a few lingering niggles from the chemo and radiation but was well on the way to recovering.

On February 19, phase two started with the removal of the "C beast". This was another challenge in itself to get through, but I just needed to accept what was happening, get a little angry, and then get on with it. Prior to the surgery I was feeling a little anxious and scared - I did read that being scared is a sign that I am intelligent! Apparently smart people know when it's worth being scared.

The first feeling I had after waking up from the surgery was relief, but that was just the beginning. I had tubes everywhere, was given morphine, and had to get to know my latest accessory. After eight days I finally ate a Jatz cracker (Savoy to us Victorians!). I can't tell you how good that felt!

Unfortunately I took a small step backwards, suffering terrible nausea resulting in the loss of another 5 kilos which totalled 13.5 kilos since first being diagnosed.

It was tough. I think tougher than the radiation and the chemo put together. But I'm happy to say the pathology report post-tumour removal has shown no active cancer cells present and none in my lymph nodes. Yay!
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