02
Feb
2018

Barbara's Kick Ass Story

My name is Barbara and I was first diagnosed with rectal cancer in 2015, three days after I turned 60. I am the youngest of six children, mum and dad lived till 85 and 91 respectively and there is no record of any cancer in my family history.

I had been experiencing some bleeding, but both my daughters had had the same and were both given a diagnosis of colitis, so I thought I would be told the same. I also had blood tests done which indicated NO bowel or ovarian cancer! It was therefore a great shock to be given the “Big C “ news.

I guess because I had private health insurance things moved very quickly and after a CT scan and MRI I was operated on within about ten days of my diagnosis, had part of my rectum removed and lived with an iliostomy for five months.

I was told all the margins were clear, along with my pathology results, so I did not need any chemotherapy. Once my iliostomy was reversed I thought I was completely in the clear.

The following year I had a follow up colonoscopy and CT scan and was told everything was fine.

In 2017 my partner and I made the decision to move to Queensland. Once I found a new doctor I followed the advice I was given and had another follow up CT scan. This time I was given the news that, when comparing this scan with my previous one, there was something not right.

I was sent for a Pet Scan which showed up four hotspots in my pelvis area. Only one surgeon deals with these diagnoses and once again, because I had private health insurance I was sent to him. I was offered a course of chemotherapy and radiation therapy before my operation but I declined this option, knowing I would have to have the major surgery anyway.

I was operated on in September 2017, a 14-hour operation called a Total Pelvic Exenteration where I lost part of my bowel, my bladder, my uterus and ovaries, my anus and vagina, my coccyx and S3 sacrectomy. A plastic surgeon used part of my “six pack” to make a “flap” to replace the part of my rear end that had been removed. I was in hospital for one month and came home with a permanent colonoscopy bag and a permanent urostomy bag and permanent nerve damage in my left foot due to the severing of a nerve when removing my coccyx.

This time I have taken up the offer of a six-month period of chemotherapy, as a possible guarantee that I will not find myself with another diagnosis of cancer down the track. I am in the second of eight cycles of the chemotherapy and so far I have found it without too many of the possible side effects.

I am so very lucky to have a supportive partner who has been by my side throughout the whole ordeal. I am also keeping a positive, upbeat attitude and trying to carry on with my life without feeling sorry for myself or without stopping doing everyday activities.

I am looking forward to the day when I am told I am in remission.

I hope my story can be used to help other women who may be experiencing bowel cancer.

Banner Bowel Cancer Australia Helpline
Support Bowel Cancer Australia
Bowel Cancer Australia Social Media
Banner Bowel Cancer Australia Non Modifiable Risk Factors 300