Camille's bowel cancer story (diagnosed at 41, SA)

Hello, my name is Camille and I’m a 41-year-old mother of four from South Australia. In July last year I was diagnosed with colon (bowel) cancer after multiple visits to the ED department.

I had always had a funny stomach after food, ever since I could remember, but in the last year it had been particularly spasmodic to the point where the cramping became so bad, I started vomiting with the pain and I could no longer manage it at home.

I frequently had sick days from work. I started losing weight because most days I was too scared to eat more than one meal a day in case whatever I ate might bring on the cramps.

I was so tired all the time. All I did was work and sleep. Being a single mother responsible for the family income, I was pushing myself continually because rent, bills, and shopping was my number one concern. But it came to a point where my work began to suffer, and I asked my mother to care for my youngest daughter for a short time because I wasn’t coping.

Other symptoms included blood in the toilet which I put down to possible haemorrhoids after having three natural births. I presented to the same ED department three times.

The first time they sent me home saying I had gastro. I argued with the intern because I knew it was not gastro (I’m a nurse) which was confirmed by another MO later that same day who came out to my house.
The second time I was sent home with no diagnosis, returning about 4 days later still in pain for my 3rd presentation.

Before going in the third time I rang a GP friend of mine in the country in tears telling him about everything that was going on with my health and my ED experiences. He told me to go back there and not to leave until they did a CT scan.

I returned to the ED and hours later I was seen by the senior consultant. I said to him, “There is something wrong with me.”

I explained that I was a nurse and I knew my own body, and that I wasn’t leaving until this was sorted and that I needed a CT scan.

He ordered for my bloods to be done, even though they had been done the two times previous and showed my haemoglobin was going down. He then did an ultrasound scan but said he wasn’t really concerned with the findings. I told him again I wanted the CT scan which he reluctantly agreed to, saying he was doing it more so to put my mind at ease and didn’t expect to find anything.

After the consultant received the CT report, he came into the room. The look on his face said it all. He apologised to me. The CT showed a 40mm cancerous tumour in my colon.

I was transferred to a surgical hospital with follow up testing, which confirmed the CT report findings. Surgery followed, taking most of my large bowel plus 55 lymph nodes (13 were cancerous) and I’ve started chemo.
I have six months of chemo ahead of me.

I posted this on the day of surgery, via Facebook:
“Most of you don’t know, but I’ve been diagnosed with colon cancer. I’m writing this to create awareness and hopefully get you talking about your own health! To think 4 days ago I didn’t even know I had cancer. I honestly don’t think this could happen to me! Today is the day! I’m looking forward to getting rid of the cancer. I just pray and hope that they can get rid of it all. I’m not going to lie, I’m so scared shitless about this op.

“They said it’s going to be painful after. Vomiting and I’m going to be fed using a nasal gastric tube. I’ll be in ICU for days. I’m only 41 years old and have no history of bowel cancer in my family.

3 times I presented to the ED and they didn’t take me seriously until they gave me the CT scan I pushed for. I knew my own body, I knew something was wrong. I just didn’t know what. Please, please, if you’re worried about your health, trust that gut feeling and keep acting on it because no one else knows your body like you do!”

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