03
Jun
2016

Christina's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 25, QLD)

On a Saturday night, in September 2011, I was supposed to be out with my friends, but stayed home because I had back pain. I called mum because even though I was 25, when I was in pain I needed my mum. My parents were out on a date night, but came home to take me to the hospital. I had never had random pain, and this was intense. After waiting for ages in the ER waiting room, I wasn’t too sure what was worse, the pain or the movie “Hairspray” blasting from the front of the room. When I finally got seen, they did a blood test to check my kidneys. The test came back clear but showed low haemoglobin levels which caused the doctors some concern, but no explanation for the pain. They then ask me 20 questions about my back – have I lifted something heavy, did I hurt it etc.
 
They send me on my way with a letter to take to my doctor.
 
I saw the doctor a few days later. The cause of the haemoglobin lack was because of my extremely low iron levels. So the doctor asked me 20 questions about why my iron was so low. Do I eat meat, how much, how often, awkward questions about a number of bodily functions and then back to how much meat I eat.

The next few weeks were full of blood tests and doctor visits and then waiting. I got a referral to a specialist and that’s when the waiting began.

In the meantime, I was getting increasingly tired. All the time. I didn’t work a full week from then on. I swear my poor boss watched his phone in the mornings expecting a “Christina’s off sick” text. The number of times I bailed on friends, plans, parties, movies, connect group, church, youth and life in general was also increasing. The original back pain wasn’t going away, but the doctors weren’t too concerned about it.
 
At the end of 2011, my specialist booked me in for an endoscopy and colonoscopy, not because she suspected anything, but just to rule stuff out and to tick some boxes. This wasn’t able to happen till Feb due to the Christmas break.

Over Christmas and January, I get worse... more back pain, more tired.

More blood tests, more tired, more days off work, more letting people down (with the excuse of being “too tired”), more getting told I am working too hard, more wondering if it was all in my head.
 
After fasting for a week, eating plain rice and lean meat, and honey on toast, the day was here... off to the hospital to face one of my biggest fears – more needles.

It wasn’t so bad, the scariest part was when the anaesthetist said “Don’t worry, you won’t fully be out, but if you look around I’ll give you some more stuff to put you back to sleep” – yeah, he was not as reassuring as he tried to be. But, all I remember is him giving me some drug that made me feel drunk, then being woken up by a nurse telling me it’s over.

I first knew something was not right when the nurse bought over a chair for mum to sit on for when the doctor came to share what they had found. I remember thinking that I had been in recovery longer than they had said I would be waiting.

When the doctor came, she said what I hadn’t even imagined. They had found a tumor. The next sentence was information about an appointment with a surgeon for the next day about my need for surgery as soon as possible. Huh. I said “huh, ok” and nodded. The doctor looked at mum and looked back at me and said, “Do you understand what I am telling you? This is bad news.” Apparently I didn’t look shocked enough to have fully comprehended the information I had been told. I did hear what she said, and it may sound crazy, but I was relieved to finally have an answer. Not a great answer, but at least it was an answer.
 
The worst part of the day was coming home to my family. Mum called Dad from the hospital while I was still in recovery and Dad told my sisters. Mum and I pulled into the drive way as Dad had just told Evelyn, my sister, she had just come over on the way home from work. She ran up to me, hugged me and burst into tears. Yep. That was the worst part of that day.

Next step was the surgeon appointment. I don’t like doctors, but this guy, he was ok. He spoke in pictures, the way my brain thinks so this was helpful. What he had to say, was not reassuring.

“It’s definitely bowel CANCER”

Those words aren’t easily forgotten. All the words that follow, however, often are. Some that I do remember are:

“CT scan is booked for this afternoon. It will tell us if the cancer is anywhere else. We’ll be checking everywhere including lungs, kidney and liver.”

“We won’t know if there is more than one tumor in your bowel until surgery.”

“We will know if you need chemo next Thursday after running tests on the tumor.”
 
Bowel cancer isn’t an easy journey, but with Faith in God, family and friends I have made it through. Early detection is vital. Listen to your body and see a Doctor. If you aren’t satisfied, get a second opinion.
 
If you would like to read more of my story, you can here: https://theuglycword.wordpress.com/2011/09/03/hello-world/ 
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