Sinead's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 31, NSW)

I was only 26 when I went to my doctor concerned about changes in my bowel habits and feeling very tired. My doctor put it down to stress which frustrated me because I felt I wasn’t being listened to.

I went to the ED and remember crying saying, “I know there is something wrong with me”. Coming from a medical background (registered nurse) I demanded to speak with a gastro specialist. The doctor who came along spoke and listened to me as human being, he was empathetic and asked the right questions. He sent me for an X-ray as he suspected I might have Crohn’s disease.

I was then sent for a colonoscopy where the bowel cancer was discovered. When I attended the appointment on my own to hear the results of the colonoscopy, the doctor didn’t mention the C word, which was good of her, but she asked me to bring my husband back with me the next day.

When she told us the news together I don't think it really sank in. I just remember seeing my husband going white..… this upset me more I think. It probably took me a month or so to actually digest everything fully. As a registered nurse I'm used to looking after sick people - not the one being looked after. 

At the time of my diagnosis I was living in Spain and had my family in Ireland. It was very difficult having to tell them my diagnosis over the phone. My mother got a flight over to be with us. 

I had to wait a month to have the operation. This was a difficult time as I was having a lot of lower back pain. I was also extremely tired and anxious and worried about the outcome of the surgery. Some doctors had also mentioned the possibility of having a colostomy and I struggled with the thought of this as I was only 26! It really scared me.

After the operation I had a one month recovery time before starting chemotherapy. Before I had the chemo I had a porta-cath implanted. I was told that I was going to have 12 sessions. This was quite daunting as it seemed like a long time and I was feeling much better after the operation and felt like I didn't need chemo.

The chemotherapy regime included Fluorouracil (5-FU) and Oxaliplatin (Eloxatin). Afterwards I developed a sore mouth, had constipation, a tingling sensation in my hands and feet, nausea and I was so tired which was the most annoying part. 

Being diagnosed with bowel cancer was such a big shock as I was only 26 at the time. But I just knew I had to fight it. I was lucky to have the most beautiful, caring person helping me through it and I felt that I needed to get better for him. I would say now I'm a stronger person and that it brought me closer to my boyfriend and now husband.

The message I would give to anyone reading this is don’t be afraid to ask and take help from your loved ones and once you go through bowel cancer you really start to appreciate the small things in life!

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