I was only two years old when I lost my grandmother to bowel cancer.
My Grandmother and my Auntie, were both diagnosed at ages 60 and 40 years respectively. By the time my grandmother was diagnosed, the cancer was terminal. My Auntie was checked out for bowel cancer due to the high family history of the disease. I was here in Australia when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer in Brazil. She had the chance to fight it but could not stand the pain caused by the radiotherapy treatments. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit her, but by that stage she had already given up her fight and was waiting to die.
My message to anyone out there reading this would be to stay positive and keep moving forward. Despite what I’ve been through I feel better now than I have in a long time. Prior to my diagnosis, I hadn’t been feeling well for some time. A driving holiday to Melbourne prompted me to see a doctor. I was fine sitting down but as soon as I stood up I had to rush to a toilet.
Back in Sydney my GP sent me off for blood tests and a CT scan. The results showed my tumour markers were up so things were not looking good. After a CT scan and MRI, a specialist performed a colonoscopy at the end of May 2011 and confirmed I had a Stage three rectal tumour.
Despite experiencing horrible stomach pains and bloating and visiting a few different GPs about my symptoms, I was told I had IBS and female problems. My mother has Crohns so I finally found a GP who would send me for a colonoscopy to test me for this.
After being on the waiting list for a while I finally had a colonoscopy in April 2011; however, it had to be abandoned due to the extreme pain I suffered during the procedure. I was scheduled to have another colonoscopy as they had found a polyp during the first procedure. This scan never happened until February 2012 and it was at this time a tumour was discovered – it was almost blocking my bowel.
I had a bowel cancer test in November 2006 which came back all clear, therefore when symptoms started occurring in February 2007 I ignored them, at the age of 57, blamed my new job, the change of lunch hours etc. Initially the symptoms were changes in my bowel habits, rectal bleeding with froth and bubbles. Eventually the symptoms started to get serious, with some stomach pain, a heaviness in the back passage and generally feeling uncomfortable. In September 2007 I couldn’t ignore any of this any longer.
Life was quite normal, albeit very busy with a young family and a very time consuming career.
Things changed for me one night when I experienced severe stomach pains after eating a chicken sandwich and immediately self-diagnosed myself with "food poisoning." The next morning I was severely sick and started to vomit. At this stage I thought I was getting better as I had got it all out of my system.