Robert's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 61, NSW)

When I was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer I was 61 years old, fit and healthy (at least I thought I was).  I was working in the entertainment industry with a part time job as a spruiker (sales motivator) and also did freelance work in the entertainment industry as a DJ/MC for various events.

Approximately 6 years ago, during a prostate check at the local GP, my doctor found a mass on my appendix, protruding into my bowel, fortunately this was benign, however I still required a resection to the right side of my large bowel.

At no time after this surgery or at any other time in my life did my doctor suggest I have bowel screening or a follow up colonoscopy.

In June I noticed changes to my bowel motions and by the end of July I had a severe case of diarrhoea, my doctor thought it was Giardia, so arranged a stool test and gave me antibiotics. After no improvement, a couple of days later I returned to the same medical centre & saw a different doctor who explained the test result for Giardia was negative, so as a result of this sent me for a CT scan of the pelvis and abdomen. 

The test showed a soft tissue nodule in the lower pelvis, I was immediately sent for a needle guided biopsy which showed ‘malignant cells present’ with characteristics of a metastasis (secondary) adenoma or carcinoma. This is where the search for the primary cancer started. The first step in this process was to have a colonoscopy during which my surgeon found a three-four cm tumour in the sigmoid area of my bowel. A biopsy was sent for diagnosis. The surgeon believed the result would come back establishing this was the primary source of the cancer so you can imagine my surprise and concern when this result was benign so we still needed to find the primary cancer.

My Dr sent me for a PET scan which discovered 2 hot spots, one was the secondary tumour & the other was in the area where the tumour was initially discovered during the colonoscopy. Surgery was now the next step.

On the 9th of November 2009 I had my surgery at Gosford Hospital where they removed 30cm of my large bowel and surrounding area including sixteen lymph nodes which were sent to pathology. Pathology revealed that the primary cancer was confined to the core of the tumour that my doctor had discovered and that the outside of the tumour had remained benign, the best news was that out of the sixteen lymph nodes only one was effected by the cancer.

My time in hospital was challenging, I have been through some adverse situations throughout my life but I believe of all of them this would have to be ‘the darkest corner I have ever had to go into’. I felt helpless, useless and scared, unable to do anything for myself, with a temporary ileostomy attached to my bowel, catheter for my urine and drain coming from my stomach, I wasn’t even able to wash myself.

Today, I am on my fifth of eight cycles of chemotherapy and all my follow up scans and blood tests show no further signs of cancer. Generally I am feeling great with the only side effect from the chemotherapy being extreme tiredness, fatigue & lethargy. Although my journey is not completely over I look forward to having my Ileostomy reversed on completion of my chemotherapy and moving on to a happy and healthy life.

In conclusion I would like you all to consider that had I had my regular bowel scans and checkups I would have avoided the physical and emotional trauma and pain that were associated with this difficult process and surgery. Do not allow guilt, shame, or embarrassment result in you going through what I have encountered or even worse your death from Bowel Cancer.

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