My family (husband, 3 young kids and our pet greyhound ) had moved to regional Western Australia in December 2017 as a part of a job transfer . A beautiful sub-tropical paradise. A few months into our big move the kids had settled well into their new school and I had just started a new job. But my health had other ideas. I was in horrid pain every time I had my period . My period had become more irregular and heavy within those prior months, cramping pain, IBS symptoms, mood swings, and unexpected anemia. Unexpected anemia was my first typical symptom of bowel cancer! Really ? I'd had it during 2 of my 3 pregnancies so I wasn't really shocked. I'm a female, I just assumed it was going to be apart of my life every month and I had to jut deal with it.
Back to 2018 in paradise. 3 months into dealing with severe cramps, and the insane pain of trying to 'chuck a $#*! got worse. Then there was blood now coming out my backside! I thought perhaps I had endometriosis . It can sometimes rarely grow into the bowel area so that made sense. I found a wonderful GP in our new hometown, she was very attentive to my concerns. She wrote me out a referral to go to the hospital for a colonoscopy and everything was urgent once the medical team got in contact.
Events slotted into place and I had a Colonoscopy on the 11th May 2018 . I can't fault the staff , they where all fantastic . After going under anesthetic for the colonoscopy I woke to a nurse holding my hand . OK that's either very caring of her and/or something was not right.
The Surgeon come out to greet me , with the literally $#*! news.
"We found a mass " ,
"I've lassoed some of it out but 1/3rd of it is still attached to your bowel"
"I'll call your next of kin this afternoon to explain "
"We are doing a biopsy and you'll need a CT scan"
"It may be cancer"
Had my CT scan results and biopsy results given to me on the 22nd May. A Locum Doctor was in town and how lucky I was I that he was a colorectal surgeon! He showed me and my husband the scan. There in my liver was over 10 metastatic tumours, the 2 biggest were around 7cm each. How on Earth did I not feel these?! My liver although somewhat compromised still functioned around it's visitors. Some tumours on lymph-nodes in my pelvis as well as the primary tumour had spread just outside the bowel wall. It was all inoperable. I felt somewhat numb, surreal.
I had a tumour in my rectum, trust me to get a tumour in my ass. I never grew out of toilet humour after all.
The only time I felt like crying in the follow up appointment was when the Doctor said my 3 kids will need colonoscopies every 5 years from age 20. Although it seems my bowel cancer is not hereditary from anyone to me, I have very possibly passed this unwelcome gift to my healthy children. I don't have Lynch Syndrome either, which just makes the diagnoses more baffling.
The Surgeon gave me a referral along with "You need chemotherapy soon. There is no Chemotherapy available here" (in undisclosed paradise town). So we had to get the ball rolling to move back to Perth, to our little old home near the beach.
My husband and I sat down and told the kids what was going to happen, we were honest to them. 3 different reactions from our 3 kids.
Telling my parents was hard, I dreaded it. I feel like my loved one's where taking the diagnoses harder than me. Facebook made the news easier to relay to our wider circle of friends and family via personal messenger or a post.
I took away the positives from my diagnoses that week. I also requested that I am NOT given a prognosis, I am not in the typical gender or age group for starters.
-There were no tumours in my lungs.
- The liver can regenerate.
- If I needed to cut out remaining primary tumour there was enough healthy colon to stitch back together without a bag needed.
- I got a referral to one of the best Oncologists in the State, the Colorectal Surgeon said if he had cancer he'd want this Professor of Oncology to treat him.
-My first chemo appointment is in June 2018.
-I had an army of support and help from family, friends, former co-workers and I was so humbled by it all.
It's now February 2019 , I have just had round 18 of chemotherapy. Several CT scans since has shown my primary as "No longer visible". All the tumours have shrunk. My lymph-nodes are no longer affected.
My oncologist mentioned at my last appointment that he will start to consider me being able to go onto SIRT radiation. The goal to rid my body of metastasis is going to happen one day.
My long hair has surrendered to the chemo therapy after round 17 I had to get several inches of my beautiful thick dark hair is a mere shadow of it's former glory. The only price I pay physically that hurt inside. My hair, my pride! But I am confident I am on track to remission one day.
I have also altered my diet and made other lifestyle improvements to give my body a fighting chance.
So my advice to the Australian Community and kicking ass? Listen to your bodies, if something is not the normal get it looked at sooner than later.
Bowel Cancer is NOT discriminate of age or gender in any way.
Australians need much earlier screening available. After all it is the second deadliest cancer in the country. We need to make more time for this shit for earlier detection, in turn a higher survival rate can be achievable.
Thank you for your time to read my tale of Kick Ass.
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In celebration of International Women’s Day (8 March) each year, Bowel Cancer Australia raises awareness of bowel cancer in women and shares empowering stories from Aussie women who are kicking bowel cancer’s ass.
Are you a kick ass woman living with or beyond bowel cancer, or do you have a female family member or friend that is?
We’re seeking female volunteers of all ages to share their experiences to help raise awareness of bowel cancer in women as part of our annual Kick Ass: Bowel Cancer In Women initiative in March.
Share your own story and help us kick bowel cancer’s ass.