Nadine's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 32, NSW)

My name is Nadine. I am a 33 year old mother to two girls and a personal trainer. I have always led a healthy lifestyle and never had any major health issues. Well at least I didn’t think I did.

Half way through 2014 I noticed I was getting frequent mild cramping in my lower abdomen. I had not long completed my first half marathon so I thought all the running may have made my stomach a little sensitive. I tried eliminating foods over the next few months but this did not make a difference. In fact, the cramping kept getting worse and more frequent, to the point I was doubled over on the toilet. In May last year I noticed some blood and I knew something wasn’t right.
That’s when I knew I needed to get it checked. I booked an appointment with my GP who suggested I see a colorectal surgeon. Due to my symptoms, age and no family history of cancer he thought it was IBS and possibly some hemorrhoids causing the bleeding however he suggested we do a colonoscopy to rule anything else out.

On 19 May 2015 I had the procedure done. As I was starting to wake up, they wheeled me into a room. I could sense my best friend next to me and then heard the surgeon enter the room. I will never forget the words that came out of his mouth “I am so sorry but we found a tumor in your bowel.” I remember thinking “a tumor, OK” and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it but then it sunk in, I had just been diagnosed with cancer.

Once I got over the shock, which took a few days, I accepted that this was the card I was dealt and that I had no choice but to fight. I was determined and confident I could beat this. Over the next couple of weeks I had to have a few scans to make sure the cancer hadn’t spread. The CT scan was clear although the images of my liver did show some ‘noise’ so they wanted me to have a MRI to check that’s all it was. I picked up the results and I couldn’t believe what I was reading. The report said I have 50+ small lesions throughout my whole liver. Another day I will never forget, the day I found out I have stage IV bowel cancer.

Over the next three months I had a bowel resection (surgery to remove the tumor), a port inserted into my chest, two angiograms to prepare my liver for radiotherapy; which both were never finished due to complications, endless specialist appointments and scans and four out of twelve chemotherapy cycles. After my fourth cycle of chemo I ended up in hospital for 19 days with tonsillitis, Influenza B and neutropenia (low white blood cell count). I was in isolation the whole time due to the high risk of infection and visitors had to wear masks and gowns. I couldn’t cuddle my girls and had to watch them cry every time they left my room after visiting me. I witnessed and heard things on that ward that just broke my heart. This was one of the hardest times in my life and I did not want to live my life like this anymore. I didn’t want to be sick and so fatigued most days that I couldn’t spend time with my girls. I didn’t want to end up in hospital again. This in my eyes was not living. I wanted to be able to cuddle my girls, be well enough to spend time with my loved ones and friends and just live a ‘normal’ life. I did a lot of reading and researching whilst I was in hospital and I would analyze my blood test results every day. These were showing that my kidney’s and liver were under strain (they were functioning just fine before chemo started) and I knew something had to change. After a lot of thought and many discussions with my best friend and family, I made the tough decision to not continue with chemotherapy or radiation and to try alternative medicine instead. I didn’t want to pump my body full of toxins anymore. My gut and heart were telling me this was the right choice for me so that’s the path I decided to take.

I told my oncologist the next day, who respected my decision, and requested another CT scan to see where I was at. The results of this showed that chemotherapy didn’t work and that the cancer had progressed slightly and there were now a couple of lesions in my lungs as well. This is when I knew I had made the right decision. Funnily enough, this was the first time since my diagnosis five months prior, that I felt in control and very positive. I believe the body is designed to heal itself and I want to give my body that chance. Once I was out of hospital, I started to adjust my diet and I also saw a Chinese Herbalist who had me taking Chinese herbs in pill form and did acupuncture on me three times per week. The idea was to ‘wake up’ my T-cells (part of the immune system) so they can start attacking the tumors. I felt quite good whilst I was having this treatment however I recently had to stop seeing the Chinese herbalist due to financial reasons. So now I guess it really is up to me to beat this thing. Am I scared? Not really. Is it hard? Hell yes! There is so much information out there and I have no idea where to continue with this but for now I have put myself on a very strict diet, even more intense than a vegan diet. I will also have another scan and blood test in February 2016 to see if there is any change. Hopefully there will be some positive news. In the meantime I will continue to create beautiful memories with my girls and loved ones.

In March 2016, a chest CT scan has shown the nodules in my lungs have doubled in size and there are new moderate and small sized nodules in both the upper and lower lobes. Not the news I wanted to receive but I will continue to fight.
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.

It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln
There is more to my story though. When I was diagnosed I went through many emotions, which is very understandable, but most of them were negative and that isn’t who I am. Once I got over the shock I decided that I didn’t want this to be a negative journey; I wanted it to be a positive one. There is always a reason and purpose for everything that happens in life and I wanted to do something good out of the shitty card I have been dealt.

I thought about it for a while and decided that I want to share my experience and help others by putting awareness out there. How was I going to do this? By doing my own personal challenge.

The challenge is called “Nadsy’s Walk for Life” and the aim was for me to walk 330km over three weeks (5 March – 27 March), 10km for every year I have lived on this earth so far. Unfortunately my body isn’t cooperating and I haven’t been able to do all the training so I can safely cover that distance in the three week period. So I have asked for help and now have quite a few people doing some kilometers for me, actually almost triple to what I set myself, which I am very grateful for. The more people out there walking, the more awareness we will raise and this is so important to me.

I don’t want others to go through what I have gone and am currently going through. I want people to know that bowel cancer does not just happen in the elderly. Myself, and many other young people all over the world are proof of this. If you feel something isn’t right with your body, no matter which part, please get it checked. Don’t put it off. Cancer no matter what type does not discriminate; it can affect anyone at any time and age, and early detection is the key.

Living with cancer is the toughest thing I have had to go through, not just physically and emotionally but also financially, and I know there are many others fighting this awful disease.
To follow Nadine’s story, please follow this link: https://nadsysbowelcancerstory.wordpress.com 
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