30
May
2017

Sherryn's bowel cancer story (diagnosed at 34, NSW)

Where do I begin?
 
This time last year I was a happy, healthy 34 year old Mum to 3 gorgeous girls (one aged 11 and twins aged 6).
 
Well I thought I was healthy.
 
I felt reasonably well apart from the odd tiredness and stomach cramps that I just put down to a tummy bug and being a busy mum of 3!
 
I went to the doctor one day as the stomach cramps just weren't going away.
 
They decided to do blood tests.
 
I went home after the blood tests, but that night I received a call from my GP that I needed to get to the hospital urgently as my blood levels were very low!
 
In fact, I only had half the amount of blood trying to run my system than a normal adult – no wonder I was tired!
 
Of course they did the usual tests and asked questions while I was at the hospital, but nothing was out of the ordinary.
 
I never experienced bleeding from my bowels or anything like that to send any alarms that there was something serious going on!
 
While in hospital I received 2 units of blood and 2 iron infusions as well.
 
They sent me for ultrasounds but that found nothing except for what they described as "an enlarged appendix”.
 
They were going to send me for a colonoscopy for further testing but unfortunately while in hospital, I came down with Influenza A.
 
As a result, I was put into isolation and never got to do the colonoscopy while in hospital!
 
They sent me home after 2 weeks in hospital and I was to do the colonoscopy outside the hospital as an outpatient.
 
Of course, I was on a waiting list.
 
I finally got the call to go in and have the colonoscoy done at the end of August 2016.
 
It was a day I'll never forget!
 
My husband dropped me off in the morning and before I was let go he went to pick up the kids from school.

I was waiting to see the specialist before I was allowed to leave, sitting in a room with other patients.

My husband and my girls were listening to the specialist tell the patients one by one that they were all good and could go home.
 
Then it was my turn.
 
The specialist looked at me and my family and said, "Can I talk to you in here please?"
 
I knew it wasn't going to be good.
 
She said, "While doing the tests on you, we found a mass in your bowel, about 10cms."
 
I started to cry.
 
I knew this wasn't great, but still never thought cancer.
 
She went on to tell me other things, but in all honestly I have no idea what she was saying.
 
I zoned out.
 
How was I going to tell my husband, my girls, my family?
 
The specialist ended up calling my husband out and told him the news as well.
 
Anyway, we made an appointment with her to follow up on the following Wednesday.
 
My Dad came down and we went to the appointment together.
 
My husband, my dad and I all sat in the waiting room waiting for my name to be called.
 
Finally she called my name, said a few things and basically explained that she wasn’t 100% certain, but was pretty sure it wasn’t good news.
 
She explained that no matter what it was, the mass needed to come out.
 
My dad and hubby asked lots of questions, but I can't remember what was being said.
 
All I remember thinking was that I didn’t want to have a bag.
 
‘I’m 34 years old; I’m not having a bag,’ I thought to myself.
 
We booked in to see the surgeon the following Wednesday, but my specialist explained that if I wasn't feeling right or the pain got worse I should go straight to the hospital.
 
Well what would you know, but things did get worse!
 
I ended up vomiting so much I couldn't even keep water down.
 
I ended up in hospital on the Sunday night and was operated on as an emergency patient first thing the next morning.
 
It was so early and I remember feeling so alone.
 
My husband and Mum were on their way to the hospital but didn't make it to see me before I went in.
 
The lovely nurse that took me down could see I was really scared and she was just beautiful and kept me calm.
 
The surgery took a long time.
 
I remember coming out and my whole family was waiting for me - my husband, my girls, Mum, Dad, my brother and my sister-in-law.
 
They all looked relieved to finally see me.
 
I still wasn't very well and was still vomiting.
 
I was also quite sore from the surgery and very, very groggy!
 
I was on some serious pain relief medication but over the next few days I was able to move wards and was back on my feet, but that took some doing, as I was in a fair bit of pain (32 staples of pain).
 
On the Friday after my surgery, I had the surgeon team come in and see me.
 
They had some news - tests came back and unfortunately they came back as cancer - the dreaded C word - stage 3 bowel cancer!
 
I took the news well.
 
I was alone when they told me.
 
Again lots of words were spoken.
 
They would send more teams to see me and talk to me about what the next steps would be.
 
I wasn't sure how to break it to family members.
 
I sent them a text message. . . yes, a text message.
 
I didn't know how to tell them.
 
God knows how they felt receiving that news via text message, but I honestly didn't know how to break it to them.
 
In the coming days I saw more medical teams and was told I would need 6 months of chemo treatment.
 
Thankfully they got all the cancer and it only got to 1 out of 21 lymph glands so I was lucky.
 
The chemo would be more of a precaution.
 
I met with my oncologist who is just amazing and has made me feel at ease from day 1.

I had my port fitted in my chest on the Friday of my second week in hospital and I went home on the Saturday.
 
It was a very long and scary 2 weeks in hospital, but the staff and all the teams were just amazing - just brilliant at their jobs!
 
I needed time to recover from my surgery before I could start my chemo treatment, so I waited for a month before I began.
 
Once I started, it went in every fortnight for 6 months.
 
Six months doesn't seem like a long time, but trust me, when I heard 6 months of treatment, it sounded like and felt like 60 years.
 
I was connected and in hospital for a minimum of 4 hours on day 1, would then go home connected with my chemo in a bottle and then disconnect on the 3rd day.
 
Chemo was hard.
 
My hair thinned out big time - I remember being in the shower thinking, ‘they lied to me.. they told me I wouldn't lose my hair!’
 
They didn't lie though.
 
I didn't lose all of my hair, it just thinned out! (A LOT)
 
I suffered really bad leg cramps (still do) and unfortunately I have lost the feeling in my hands and in my legs from my knees down.
 
Thankfully, I have now finished my chemo treatment and I’m waiting for my 1 year after surgery scans.
 
I still suffer legs cramps and I still have the numbness in my hands and legs, but my hair is growing nicely and I am still here.
 
I am still smiling.
 
If I can tell you one thing, it's to be as positive as you can be throughout everything life throws at you.
 
Yes, it's hard!
 
It's damn hard, but you will be AMAZED at how far a positive mind and attitude can take you!
 
I have never driven manual in my life.
 
While going thru chemo my husband decided to change our family car from an auto to a manual, so I learnt manual while on chemo AND with numb hands and legs.
 
Just shows you if you stay positive, you can do anything you put your mind to.
 
I hope if you are reading this story that you find something in my story to help you.
 
Every story is different as with every treatment.
 
It's a hard road we each travel.
 
We need to make the most of every minute we are here.
 
Smile more, laugh more and love more.
 
Sherryn ?
 
Banner Bowel Cancer Australia Helpline
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