Carolyn's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 45, VIC)

When I was diagnosed with stage III bowel cancer in 2006, I was 45 years old.

I am a wife and a mother of three (now 23, 20 & 16 years old) and an office manager. 

I had no family history of bowel cancer and I led a healthy lifestyle before my diagnosis, although I was told further along the process that I carry the HNPCC gene, which is a strong indicator of the disease. 

I had intermittent anaemia for about three years, which was treated with iron tablets and vitamin B injections and seemed to resolve the problem, but I was sent for further tests in 2006 when the persistent stomach pain I had been experiencing on and off worsened.

A specialist recommended a CT scan, which showed an abnormal growth in my bowel. Five days later I was given an iron infusion, then a colonoscopy a week later, then a bowel resection the following week. 

I was told I would have to have 12 chemotherapy treatments (5-FU & Eloxatin). Treatments were to be fortnightly, but after 6 treatments they became every three weeks due to my body not recovering enough for them to be fortnightly. However, only ten treatments were ever administered because I struggled with the side effects. It was a trying time: I was very tired but still working part-time, which, looking back, really helped me focus on something other than cancer and chemotherapy. I was very tired and practically did nothing but sleep and work during that time, with no energy left over for anything else, I had to let my housework standards slip during that time and meals became very simple.

I was depressed and scared at first, but I resolved to have every treatment on offer to help ensure the best possible outcome, and I felt much stronger after the operation. My children coped so well with everything. My eldest daughter was at university but stayed with us and helped take care of the two younger children, trying to maintain some normality in their lives by taking them to sport, and so on. We really tried to keep their lives as normal as possible.
It’s now three years since my treatment ended and my three-monthly checks have not shown any return of the primary or secondary cancer, so I very much hope to continue on this path. My family, my oncologist, fellow chemo patients and past cancer patients were my greatest support during my bowel cancer experience.
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