One piece of advice that I would have for all other young women is to trust your instincts, I knew something was really wrong and I wasn't going to take no for an answer. I had visited my GP on several occasions complaining about extreme fatigue and persistent abdominal pain. He prescribed me antibiotics and put my symptoms down to Irritable Bowel Syndrome and stress. After a number of visits, I floated the possibility of being tested for bowel cancer following no improvements in symptoms. He brushed me off telling me that "It won't be cancer, you're too young to have bowel cancer'. I went home and wasn't really satisfied with the information I had received, I decided to visit him again the following week and directly ask for a colonoscopy.
He seemed extremely reluctant to refer me for a colonoscopy, I had to be extremely persistent in order to walk out of the door with a referral that day. I got into my car and rang the hospital, anticipating being booked in as soon as possible. Unfortunately, my GP had referred me to the local public hospital, even though I had private health insurance. The wait time for a low risk patient was going to be roughly 6 months. I hung up from the phone call and thought that this wasn't good enough, after a quick phone call to my mum I had the information for a private practice which could complete the procedure within a week. I walked back into the GP's office and asked for an updated referral to be written.
Being an advocate for my own health has essentially saved my life, I knew something wasn't right and I am so glad I trusted my instincts. Walking back into the GPs office that day and asking for a referral to a private practice has been the best decision I have ever made. Extreme fatigue and persistent abdominal pain could be attributed to many other conditions, but bowel cancer still needs to be ruled out no matter the patients age or sex.
I was diagnosed following my colonoscopy in July 2013 and have since had very positive experiences with my health care professionals. My Colorectal Surgeon and Oncologist have worked closely together to individualise my treatment regime and I am forever grateful for their care and support.
Trust your instincts and follow up any symptoms you may be experiencing even if they are embarrassing, it might just save your life.