07
Jul
2015

Sue's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 63, VIC)

I have always been conscientious with mammograms and pap smear tests so I believe if bowel cancer testing had been brought to my attention; I would have done it too.

My husband and I are in our early sixties and bowel cancer testing had never been mentioned to us through our family doctor and we had not been sent testing kits. At the time, inclusion in the testing kit program was based on your year and date of birth so we had both missed out. And since we had no history of bowel cancer in our families, it was never on my radar.

Needless to say, I believe I would be better placed now if the illness had been diagnosed much earlier.
 
My Bowel Cancer diagnosis came about after being admitted to the emergency department of a private hospital not far from home in the middle of the night. I was in severe pain and required blood transfusions to prepare me for surgery. My operation took six hours and, according to the surgeon, it was touch and go due to my blood loss.
 
Eight months prior, I had visited the emergency department of a country hospital with severe stomach pain. However my blood test was considered normal, so I didn't follow it up once we returned home from our holiday.

Four months later, I visited my GP following a bout of severe vomiting and diarrhea. Results from the blood test ordered showed an acute infection.

As I was feeling better, I had no further follow-up and the symptoms settled down.

All this happened while I was managing my elderly mother who had had a severe stroke, which led to her being placed in an aged-care facility. Suddenly I had to organise selling her house, in addition to dealing with other family issues, so I put my own problems on the back burner.
 
After the emergency surgery, my surgeon referred me onto an Oncologist. The oncologist did outline options, which were pretty much to go ahead with chemo or choose not to.

The chemotherapy wasn't easy. I finished my final dose in May and experienced various side effects from taste changes and nausea to depression and pain. Now that it has finished, I think it's worth mentioning some of these side effects could have been reduced with better advice about some of the drugs I was prescribed.
 
When I was first diagnosed with the cancer I was in shock, but with all that was going on in my family at the time, I thought: "I just have to deal with this as best as I can."
 
Not long after my surgery, my mother had a fall and broke her hip. Surgery followed but she was unable to recover from it and she passed away in November.

I can't describe how dreadful the last 18 months have been for us. Emotionally and psychologically, I struggle at times still trying to process it all. But I really believe after going through this entire process, we need to raise the profile of bowel cancer, and start speaking to others about bowel cancer, as it really can change your life.
 
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