Who would have thought that giving blood could lead to a diagnosis of bowel cancer? I certainly never did. In early 2009, I went along to my local blood bank to make a donation and was told I was anaemic.
I saw my GP who is, thankfully, very proactive and sent me for a range of tests to identify the cause of the anaemia.
Two or three weeks later I was due for a colonoscopy too but, since every other test had come back normal, I almost decided not to go through with it. Then I thought, ‘One more test won’t hurt me’.
It was during the colonoscopy that they discovered the bowel cancer. The next day I went to see a surgeon and he wanted to operate as soon as possible but first I needed a CT scan. I had the scan the following day and it showed multiple tumours in my lungs. The doctors decided then not to operate on the bowel cancer but to treat both my bowel and lungs with chemotherapy.
Eleven rounds of Oxaliplatin caused a few side effects, including fatigue, lethargy and pins and needles in my hands and feet. Six rounds (and counting) of 5-FU made me feel nauseous, lethargic and gave me mouth ulcers. The Avastin made my nose bleed.
I am no longer on chemotherapy and have started a trial drug taken intravenously, which certainly has fewer side effects than the chemo.
Bowel cancer hasn’t really affected my diet, except during the ongoing chemotherapy when I would lose my appetite. I must admit, I was never really given any advice on my diet or advised to make any changes in consideration of the cancer. I’ll be honest though: I didn’t lead a very healthy lifestyle before my diagnosis, and I knew that bowel cancer ran in my family.
Knowing that many other people may also have very little idea about bowel cancer, its causes and its symptoms, makes me want to help spread the word.
I have been very lucky to have the support of my partner and other family members, especially my sister and sister-in-law.
I think I took my diagnosis pretty well. I have ups and downs, but I am a pretty positive person generally and I will continue to keep fighting. And at the end of the day, what will be will be.