Sheila's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 68, NSW)

I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2004 at the age of 60.

The only symptom I had experienced was rectal bleeding – not a lot, but enough to think it might be a problem – so I went to my GP. After looking into my family history, we think my grandmother might have had bowel cancer too, but these things were rarely diagnosed properly back then so we can’t be certain.

In June 2004, I was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer.

I was horrified when the first surgeon I saw was adamant that I had to have a colostomy. So I started seeking advice and was recommended to another surgeon who said there was a 50/50 chance I could have a temporary ileostomy and a reversal, but that he wouldn't know until he operated. 

I was overjoyed when I came out of the anaesthetic to hear him say "we did it".

I started chemotherapy (5-FU) treatment after surgery but, over time, it began to feel as if my body was ‘broken down’. The treatment really took it out of me. For example, I had to rest after climbing stairs and it started to feel like I had absolutely no quality of life at all. Eventually I ended up back in hospital. My oncologist stopped any further chemo treatment and organised extra scans and blood tests.

I had to wait until I had regained some of my strength before I could have my ileostomy reversed and once again I was overjoyed, but now I am seriously considering having a colostomy, because I am incontinent. There is also some associated pain and discomfort and I am prevented from taking part in some activities.

The good thing is that I passed the five year mark and was given the all clear, even though I worry from time to time that the cancer might return or reappear in another part of my body, but I think it’s probably normal to feel this way.

My husband and friends were very supportive, for which I am very grateful but thinking back on it everything happens so quickly and it wasn't easy getting all the advice I needed.

Banner Bowel Cancer Australia Helpline
Support Bowel Cancer Australia
Bowel Cancer Australia Bowel Cancer App