Pamela's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 49, VIC)

I was diagnosed with bowel cancer on 23 June 2010 at the age of 49. 

My symptoms were terrible – severe stomach pain, vomiting and loss of appetite and energy. It took almost three months of feeling horrible before the doctors worked out what was wrong with me, a period that was made worse by the constant back and forth to the GP for appointment after appointment.  After I was simply discharged after my fourth hospital admission in as many weeks – with continuous vomiting that made a saline drip necessary – I was at my wits’ end.
The best my GP could come up with was to test for Giardia and salmonella poisoning.
Finally, a friend suggested I speak to a surgeon she knew, who actually listened to me talk about my symptoms. He recommended a gastroenterologist, who diagnosed bowel cancer. Luckily, I was booked to have surgery quite quickly, and the surgeon was able to remove most of the 5cm tumour in my bowel laparoscopically, along with 14 affected lymph nodes, 11 of which were cancerous.
The next step is six months of chemotherapy, which I start soon.
It all happened so quickly that it is difficult to take in. You realise early on that you need to write down absolutely everything that is being said to you, because every time you see a new doctor you have to communicate your medical history and be able to tell them what has happened that brought you to this appointment. It’s all very overwhelming at times. I’m lucky enough to have moved in with my sister and her family, and they are an incredible support. I’m so grateful to have them – I don’t know how people cope alone.
I’m still coming to terms emotionally with my diagnosis. It has been hard but, again, the support I have received from family and friends has been so helpful. I have also received wonderful support from my brother and his family. But only now am I starting to feel strong enough to share my story with other sufferers, the only people who genuinely understand what I’m going through.
Who knows what happens next? With the long path of chemotherapy – and possibly radiotherapy – ahead of me, all I can do is stay positive and focussed and see this as yet another challenge on the road to recovery.
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