Eileen's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 50, NSW)

Even though there is a history of bowel cancer in the family, I never thought it would happen to me.

My diet had been considerably healthy throughout my life and I had previously used a Rotary Bowelscan kit, which had come back clear. This all changed in July 2007 when I was diagnosed with Dukes stage 3 bowel cancer.

For several months I had been experiencing shortness of breath, lethargy and a general feeling of tiredness. A visit to my GP and subsequent blood test revealed slight anemia and also hypothyroidisim. I was also experiencing heavy irregular periods around the same time so my anemia was put down to that.

My mother had died of bowel cancer in 2004 so as a result, and in being proactive, I had booked in to have a routine colonoscopy at age 50. However, just before I was due to have the colonoscopy I began to have rectal bleeding.

My colonoscopy was brought forward and a cancerous polyp was found. I had an immediate CT scan which showed no spread of the cancer anywhere else in my body. After my diagnosis I had surgery (anterior resection via keyhole surgery and no stoma) followed by chemotherapy.

Once I knew and understood all of my options following the diagnosis, I kept very hopeful. I was more concerned for my family and the effect it would have on them.

I was started on a course of Fluorouracil (5-FU) plus Oxaliplatin which caused various side effects – mainly tiredness and altered bowel habits, tingling in the arms and on exposure to the cold; loss of appetite and heartburn. This lasted for 6 months.

In July 2012, I will be five years clear of bowel cancer. I have increased my fruit intake and after chemotherapy I put on about 5kg which I have not yet lost. I have also enjoyed participating in regular exercise, walking with friends, playing tennis, kayaking and recently learning to row in singles and quads. I work 3 days a week and try to enjoy the rest of the week keeping active.

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