Donna's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 45, QLD)

I would recommend for anyone reading this to please listen to your body, take notice of your symptoms and get it followed up with your doctor. We all need to push to get looked at when we think there is a problem, because like me, there probably is. 

For a couple of years I had experienced bowel changes, which I mentioned to my GP but I was told my symptoms were related to others things. I was tested for coeliac disease as my brother is a coeliac; however, no further tests were done.

Two years later I had a dramatic rectal bleed and presented to the local hospital that night. The hospital doctor wrote a letter to my GP who referred me for a colonoscopy and organised an FOB test in the meantime, which came back negative. I live three hours from the nearest city so I had to wait another three months to see a surgeon who discovered a tumour in my bowel. He recommended it be removed whether it was cancerous or not. At this stage I was not feeling overly concerned as my pathology results had come back negative. The cancer diagnosis was only confirmed after the surgery, when I was told it was Stage 3 bowel cancer.

At first I was told I should have surgery and possibly chemotherapy, which ended up being the case. After complications from the surgery I was given a temporary ileostomy. Fortunately my brother and his family live in Brisbane, so I was able to fly in fortnightly, stay with them for three days for chemotherapy and fly back home.

I developed the usual symptoms for my type of chemotherapy such as tingling and numbness in my fingers and toes. I also developed cold sensitivity, the seizing up of jaw and finger joints, a dry mouth, constipation, insomnia, irritability, hair loss, loss of appetite and taste, and memory loss.

Due to the ileostomy, I had to avoid many other foods and drink a lot of fluids. I had no appetite and it was difficult to eat many normal foods. In hospital I was given plenty of useful advice by a dietician. I was able to get support over the phone from the dietician and stoma therapy nurses.

I had a lot of trouble emotionally and psychologically. Apart from the cancer I was also dealing with a depressed teenage son, my home being flooded, business concerns and I had to travel away for surgery and chemo. I suffered from the loss of control over my life, dealing with the unknown, isolation and problems with body image. I was angry and depressed. My partner was at a loss to know how to deal with me. It has taken me a long time to improve but I have.

Currently there is no sign of cancer. I’ve not quite been given the all clear, but I’m now onto six monthly check- ups.



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