I have been a vegetarian for over 30 years, have never smoked and have drank very little alcohol – so to get bowel cancer has been such a rude awakening. I feel I no longer have the security of my health and I worry that the cancer could come back at any time…
I first started feeling something was wrong in January 2008. I suffer from many auto immune problems, including Sjogren’s syndrome which causes irritable bowel type symptoms (this threw my GP off the scent and complicated the situation even more).
In 2005 when I was 14, my father was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer. Dad was just 38 at the time and given a low chance of surviving five years. That was eight years ago and he is still with us, happy and healthy today.
Finding out dad had bowel cancer was a complete shock. Following his diagnosis, he underwent surgery and half of his large intestine was removed. He then was prescribed Xeloda as chemotherapy and, like most cancer patients, experienced a lot of difficulty with the treatment. Over the next 12 months, he attempted other forms of therapy but due to our location in a regional area, he ended up continuing with the tablets.
I noticed some blood clots on the toilet tissue. The GP checked for haemorrhoids but found none so asked for blood and faecal tests. They came back normal. We thought it was Irritable Bowel Syndrome and I began to change my diet to see if that would help. At the same time, she asked me to have a colonoscopy, just to be on the safe side, saying we had to find out what's going on. She didn't pressure me to have it, but my husband did. I procrastinated for a week debating whether this was really necessary.
In August 2010 my life changed forever. Nothing can prepare you for a bowel cancer diagnosis at just 38 years old.
I had been given what I thought was a routine colonoscopy to investigate the cause of my iron deficiency, which my doctor thought was probably due to an ulcer. But as I lay in bed in the recovery room after being told they had found a tumour, I remember thinking: ‘I’m too young. I have a husband and two young boys. This can’t be happening to me’.