When I was diagnosed with bowel cancer on 23 June 2011, I didn’t even ask what stage the cancer was at – I just wanted to know what I had to do to fight it.
My initial symptoms were rectal bleeding, a change of bowel habit and stomach pain. Eighteen months prior, I had started bleeding and had a colonoscopy which showed nothing. The last colonoscopy five years prior to that had showed a polyp and an unknown growth, neither of which were diagnosed as a cancer. There is no family history of bowel cancer on either side of my family either.
When Maureen received a screening kit in the mail just after her 55th birthday, she had no reservations about doing the test.
“It was just too simple not to do. The test was hygienic, quick to complete and extremely straight-forward,” she said.
Just as well, because ultimately this unusual birthday present saved her life. When the test returned a positive result, Maureen was not overly concerned as she had read in the accompanying booklet that the presence of blood may be due to conditions other than cancer.
In my early to mid-40s I experienced a lot of diarrhoea. A few trips to the GP saw me have several FOBTs, blood tests for inflammatory bowel markers and Coeliac Disease, as well as standard blood tests for everything else. All came back Normal. Time and time again. I had an endoscopy at about 45, and was diagnosed with Grade 5 Reflux Oesophagitis and Gastritis. We thought we had found the problem, and I was given appropriate medication.
At least three years before I was diagnosed with bowel cancer, I went to the doctor with a bloated stomach and increased bowel motions however the doctor didn't really look into it.
A year or so later I went to emergency with excruciating pain, blood and mucus. I was given morphine and sent home. I continued to experience pain, blood and mucus and passing bowel motions up to 10 times a day.