Brian's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 53, VIC)

I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in May 2011 after experiencing changes to my bowel habits over approximately 2 months, which was followed by abdominal pain.  This led me to my GP who thought the stomach upsets were nothing serious so prescribed a reflux medication and sent me on my way. 

I soon returned to my GP after experiencing rectal bleeding, when he then referred me for a faecal occult blood test immediately. 

I had also performed the government screening when I was 50 which unfortunately was probably a false negative. 

I was then booked in for a colonoscopy which I had to wait two weeks for and this showed a large bowel tumour.  A day later I had a CT scan to the bowel, liver and lung.  I was diagnosed Stage 4, as there were also spots located on both my lung and liver, but fortunately it is all operable at this point. 

I have completed two rounds of chemotherapy, and my first operation to resect my bowel and have a temporary stoma is scheduled for the 26th of September.  Once this surgery is complete, the plan is to have an operation later this year on my liver, then further surgery to my lung at some stage after that.

The chemotherapy has certainly been an experience.  So far I have experienced nausea and vomiting during the five weeks of 5FU.  It caused both my lips to be totally ulcerated, along with mouth ulcers and irregular bowel motions.  The worst side effects were cumulative but soon controlled with anti-nausea medications.  I am extremely lucky my partner is a nurse and could inject Maxalon regularly when I was at my sickest.   

I was also given radiotherapy five days per week for five weeks to my pelvis region targeting the primary bowel site.  The main effect of this was fatigue.  The machinery and the conscientiousness of the medical staff in targeting the cancer were impressive. 

My diet has changed since being diagnosed.  I do not eat any processed meats, I have increased my fish intake, and do not consume any alcohol or coffee.  I received some good advice from my oncologist which has really helped from the beginning, so I am certainly grateful for that.  

I did have bowel cancer present within my family’s medical history, but I would certainly say I have led a very healthy lifestyle to the point of being diagnosed. 

Before being diagnosed I experienced depression which may well have been triggered by the underlying cancer, and in fact it masked some of the symptoms of my bowel cancer.  Fortunately I received wonderful support from family, friends and the psychologist I had been referred to for counseling.  Also I have been inspired by the mutual support of patients at radiotherapy and chemotherapy and the medical team.  I have been remarkably calm since my diagnosis and am now learning to live with the cancer, although I hope and plan to beat it.  I figure you just have to take each day as it comes. 

If you are reading this and you have recently been diagnosed, I highly recommend you encourage your friends and family within the suitable age groups to go and get screened as soon as possible for this cancer; you just don't know it's there until you look for it. 

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