On the 9th April 2018, aged 32 years young, after having a colonoscopy, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. After further testing - MRI, PET scan and CT scan, the doctors confirmed the cancer had spread through to the muscle wall and into my pelvis area and my lymph nodes.
The first step of my treatment plan was to have chemo and radiation for 6 weeks to shrink the tumor in my lower rectal area. The next step was having surgery called a pelvic exenteration on the 10th October 2018. The operation took 16 hours where they removed my lower bowel, bladder and prostate. I have now been permanently left with a colostomy and urostomy. I was in hospital for almost 2 months.
We all know someone who has experienced the dreaded Bali Belly. They head to Bali expecting to have the time of their lives and end up spending days in bed with horrible stomach aches, vomiting and diarrhoea until they take enough Imodium and probiotics to kick it!
So when we headed to Bali on Sunday August 28 2016 and I started feeling nauseous on the plane I thought it was nothing more than my stomach not agreeing with the sandwich I ate at the airport. But when we landed in Bali that night I still didn't feel any better so I went straight to bed and hoped to sleep it off and wake up to start what would be an amazing holiday!
I have suffered from constipation periodically, ever since I was young, so I did not regard it as unusual. My father died of cancer in 1995 in the UK. He told me a few years earlier he had had some polyps removed but he had played down the seriousness of his condition when I spoke to him on the phone. I now know he eventually had open abdominal surgery but still not much more information than that. I had assumed his cancer started in his lungs because he was a pipe smoker.
No one ever told me he had bowel cancer – in the mid nineties I had never even heard of bowel cancer. I knew that my mother had Crohn's disease. When I had constipation, I thought I might have Crohn's too and believed there was no treatment to cure this apart from surgery so didn’t want a diagnosis.
In June 2015, my brother Andrew was treated for diverticulitis (with antibiotics), a condition where pockets that develop in the lining of the intestine become infected or inflamed. A few years prior, he was hospitalised for over a week with similar symptoms, these included severe pain in the abdomen.
My beloved brother Rob was diagnosed with metastatic stage 4 bowel cancer in October 2017, just before his 44th birthday. His was diagnosed with the disease after having an unusual pain in his abdomen, which led to urgent CT scans. Rob had surgery and chemotherapy, and sadly lost his life in June 2018, 8 months after diagnosis.