29
Sep
2014

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

I was 45 when I was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer in 2000.

At an early age and having a family history of FAP, for which I was screened, I was told that, like my two older brothers, I carried the gene (my mother was the first and she passed away a couple of years later). My sister was also discovered to have the gene. So from as early as in my 20's, I carried out regular screening.

Following a recommendation from my specialist, I had my large bowel removed except for a portion of my rectum to save me from having cancer.

As a result, I continued having sigmoidoscopes, but unfortunately before one of my regular screenings, it was discovered that I had cancer.

After numerous tests, I had a very rigorous regime of treatment before and after surgery to minimise the tumour. The treatments involved chemotherapy/radiation therapy (at the same time) and post-surgery, a course of chemotherapy.

To be diagnosed with cancer after having preventive surgery and being screened closely, is a very rare occurrence. Usually those with FAP who have 'preventative' surgery and who are regularly checked don't develop cancer.
 
Since the diagnosis, I have had to have two sections of my small bowel removed due to cancerous polyps, but no recurrence of cancer. As a result of losing my entire colon and two sections of small bowel, I have to stick to a low-fibre diet, which can sometimes be difficult.
 
The combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapies makes it difficult to know which caused the more hazardous symptoms, but I mainly experienced tiredness, nausea and diarrhoea.
I would urge everyone over the age of 50 to have regular Bowel Screening tests. The earlier bowel cancer is detected, the easier and safer it is to 'beat it'.
 
I suppose being diagnosed with bowel cancer has put some perspective into my life. I went through a low period after being diagnosed with serious Chronic Kidney Disease. This was due to taking Nexium for digestive problems because of so many bowel operations.
 
Otherwise, I have been lucky to have a supportive partner and am now actively involved in cancer consumer groups and partnering with The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute as a consumer buddy. This has been really interesting and rewarding. During my advocacy time, I came across a really great statement from a survivor who said "Cancer is not a sentence," and I truly believe it!

I live my life as full as I can and am truly pleased to have survived.
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