Ella's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 35, ACT)

At the age of 35 I started experiencing rectal bleeding so my GP recommended I have a colonoscopy. The colonoscopy confirmed three growths located within my bowel. After seeing my GP it all happened within weeks, it all seemed so fast yet very professional.

After being diagnosed I was required to undergo radiation and chemotherapy. Two weeks before Christmas I commenced my radiation cycle which included trips to radiology every day for 6 weeks and chemotherapy in a tablet form, which included 3 pills, twice a day.

Approximately 6 weeks after my cycle of Radiation treatment I was scheduled for surgery to remove the growths. I was given a temporary ileostomy bag/stoma. This was to be initially for 3 months.

After surgery 6 cycles of aggressive chemotherapy treatment were scheduled. The chemotherapy I commenced was capecitabine (Xeloda) and oxaliplatin (Eloxatin). After my first cycle of chemotherapy, I experienced extreme nerve damage on my right hand, numbness as well as nausea and sickness that did not get better. On night number 3 following my treatment, my husband called the nurse to administer anti-nausea medication via a needle. Late that morning I woke in excruciating pain and could not move. It was Mother's Day and my 3 year old daughter had made breakfast for me! I could not even lift my head to kiss her. My husband arranged for my girlfriends to come round and watch my two daughters, aged 3 and 7 months old. He took me to emergency where it turned out I had appendicitis. Later that afternoon my surgeon removed my appendix.

The chemotherapy treatment suppressed my appetite, caused numbness, nerve damage, neuropathy and extreme sensitivity to the cold. It was winter so I could not go outside without being covered. I could not drink/eat anything cool, cold or frozen. I also could not tolerate any dairy, which could have been associated with the surgery or the treatment.

Because of the unexpected appendix surgery my chemo was interrupted for 2 weeks. After recommencing for the remaining 5 rounds of treatment, the team of doctors decided to wait on the surgery to reattach the bowel and removing the stoma, and rather keep going with treatment. This meant the ileostomy bag was for seven months but that was a small price to pay and it was then successfully removed and my bowel reconnected again 7 weeks after my chemotherapy treatment concluded.

I found all of the products I used during my time with the stoma worked well; however receiving products was difficult and was located in only one location. With two children in the middle of chemotherapy it proved very difficult to arrange for replenishments.

When I was first diagnosed with bowel cancer I immediately went into a numb mode of organising logistics for 2 small children and with my family in another country it was trying to say the least.

I can certainly say I have learnt a lot about myself, family and friends having received amazing support. My Mum flew to Australia immediately and my friends organised child care and meal rosters throughout my treatment. Due to both my husband and I living away from family and having two young children, the thought of having to go to a medical appointment was a struggle, and it never was an issue for girlfriends to help out when we needed them, and for that I am truly grateful. We have a wonderful group of friends in the area.

If I had my time again, I would have benefited greatly knowing that there was Bowel Cancer Australia. When I was first diagnosed, unfortunately I did not realise they existed. At the time it was very lonely thinking I was the only female amongst a group of older men with bowel cancer plus having two young children (3 & 7 months) and having to consider where they would be going and who was to look after them when I had appointments and treatment to go to.

I am finally feeling back to normal, however tired and exhausted are my “new normal”. I am cautious of everything I eat, and have put life in a new perspective.

I have returned to work as Senior Stylist with Westfield and Corporate Sales Executive at Club Lime.

I am now considered to be all clear according to recent tests.

Banner Bowel Cancer Australia Helpline
Support Bowel Cancer Australia
Bowel Cancer Australia Bowel Cancer App