Eve's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 51, VIC)

I have been a vegetarian for over 30 years, have never smoked and have drank very little alcohol – so to get bowel cancer has been such a rude awakening. I feel I no longer have the security of my health and I worry that the cancer could come back at any time…

I first started feeling something was wrong in January 2008. I suffer from many auto immune problems, including Sjogren’s syndrome which causes irritable bowel type symptoms (this threw my GP off the scent and complicated the situation even more).

My GP took blood tests which showed I was anaemic. Over the next few weeks I continued to feel ill with episodes of vomiting. I was prescribed iron tablets and told I had a combination of anaemia and low blood pressure.

I continued to feel ill and in July I was sent home from work. On the train going home I felt more unwell than I had ever felt in my life. I experienced a weird pinging and rushing sensation in my abdomen and also vomited. I was frightened and felt like I was going to die! I told my doctor who sent me to a rheumatologist. The rheumatologist made an off the cuff remark about going for a colonoscopy which I didn’t follow up on. Following more blood tests, I was told my iron levels were so low I should double the strength of iron tablets I was currently taking.

By September, I was still feeling ill and had a change in bowel habit. By this time I needed a blood transfusion and I was referred for a colonoscopy which I had in October. It showed a huge mass in my bowel. The doctor couldn’t get the camera passed it but managed to take a biopsy. My specialist did not think it was advanced cancer and surgery was arranged for three weeks’ time.

Four days later however, I was rushed to hospital by ambulance as the tumour had developed an abscess and I had developed peritonitis. I had a right-sided hemi-colectomy the next day which saw 60 per cent of my large bowel removed and two loops of the small bowel. I didn’t need a stoma. I had six months of chemotherapy with side effects of Palmer Planter Syndrome and Peripheral neuropathy.

Three weeks ago I had a liver resection for what we thought was metastatic cancer. I feel so lucky as it turned out to be hyperplasia, a type of overgrowth of normal cells. I am now having colonoscopies every two years and feel lucky to have the support of my husband and two children.

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