Joy's bowel cancer story (mother diagnosed age 66, NSW)

In May 2011 Mum began losing weight and starting experiencing pain on the right side of her abdomen. A colonoscopy discovered a large mass and she was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer. She was 66.

Mum was treated with surgery and has since had chemotherapy. Sadly three months ago she started finding it difficult to speak. It seemed as though her nerves were not working effectively, causing her to not be able to eat or talk properly. At that point I didn’t have a good feeling about things so we went back to Mum’s doctor. She was sent for an MRI and they spotted secondaries on her brain.

Mum continues to get chemotherapy but her CEAs levels (tumour markers) continue to rise. Her tongue has now wasted away on one side, making it difficult for her to eat or talk. It is hard watching someone you love going through such an ordeal when you know there is little left to do for them other than care for their needs (physical and emotional). My Mum loved to talk so not being able to is almost more crippling than the cancer.

I live with and care for Mum, including attending all of her various medical appointments whilst working fulltime. It is amazing to see what limited resources are out there for families caring for loved ones with cancer. Family assistance is certainly lacking in this area, sometimes you just wonder how people do it.

The reality for our family is that bowel cancer and the risk of it are very real. Our grandfather died of it, Mum has it, and now we all need to be aware of getting our colonoscopies on a routine basis.

I really want to be able to help other bowel cancer patients and their families through this time because it is impacting our lives so I know it must be doing the same for others. One of my greatest regrets was not asking for an MRI when Mum was first diagnosed. It just makes me wonder whether we could have stopped the cancer from spreading elsewhere.

Bowel cancer is now my charity and I make sure I eat an apple every day and bring the topic up in my office whenever I can.

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