Malcolm's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 75, TAS)

I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2008. I was up in Darwin visiting friends on a holiday and came back feeling unwell. I had an upset tummy and diarrhoea but thought it must have been the water up there. When I looked at my stools I saw dark red blood. I did the Faecal Occult Blood test and that came back positive. I was referred for a colonoscopy in late September and that confirmed it. I had bowel cancer. My surgery was scheduled for December. I was in absolute shock. It was just not what I was expecting at all.

The cancer was luckily just in the bowel. The surgeon removed it laprascopically but unfortunately I had internal bleeding and didn't make it out of recovery before returning to the operating theatre again. This time I had a laparotomy to repair my bowel but this meant I had to have an Ileostomy formed in order to allow my bowel to heal. I lived with the Ileostomy for 3 years. I was lucky to have a great stoma nurse who helped me learn how to look after and live with a stoma. I found that Psychological strength was the most important strength I could have at this point. I had a fear that the bag would come off or leak. It happened to me once at night and after that I was really self conscious and didn't want to sleep. I had to work hard on overcoming the psychological barrier, in fact that was the hardest part even compared to the surgery.

In 2012, 3 years after my surgery I was able to have the Ileostomy reversed.

But that wasn't the end of my journey. 6 months later I had another colonoscopy which showed another bowel cancer had formed higher up in the bowel. I had another laparotomy which successfully removed the cancer. I continued to have ongoing issues with bowel strictures causing obstructions too.

I finally have the all clear now but I still have to have scans of my liver every 6 months and colonoscopies every 18 months. I keep a close eye on my diet and have learnt what I can and can't eat now. My message to people reading this would be go and see your GP and talk to them. Be honest, don't be scared and tell them everything. The psychological part is the hardest. Don't let bowel cancer defeat you.
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