This story is about my father who was diagnosed with bowel cancer three days before Christmas in 2010 and passed away just five weeks later.
Dad was a young 72-year-old – he was healthy and active, ate well, enjoyed long walks, wouldn’t hesitate to climb up on the roof if necessary, and had never even been to hospital – so his diagnosis was a shock. He had lost his appetite and begun to lose weight about a month before his diagnosis but his doctor didn’t think it was a problem; in fact, he thought it was good that he was losing weight, even though Dad wasn’t a big man. The GP had no idea.
In 2015, my brother Andrew was treated for diverticulitis, a condition when pockets that develop in the lining of the intestine become infected or inflamed. A few years prior, he ended up in hospital for over a week with symptoms including severe pain in the abdomen.
In 2016, the condition flared, and Andrew was treated with antibiotics, but the pain never really subsided. His doctor suggested he get an ultrasound.
I was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 37, totally unexpected at such a young age.
The only real experience I’d had with the disease was watching my grandfather live with a colostomy bag after the removal of his bowel when I was a child. But I no longer consider this an ‘old man’s disease’.
I thought that with two young kids, all my dignity had already been lost and nothing much could gross me out.
Yet it was one good, long episode of rectal bleeding that really made me face my squeamishness and uneasiness with discussing bodily functions.
The bleeding had stopped by the time I arrived at the hospital, when the doctors asked, “How much blood? A teaspoon? A tablespoon?”