Tracey B's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 48, NSW)

As a 48 year old busy mum of four running a business, I'm afraid my health was not always my first priority.

I’d experienced some symptoms which I’d discussed with my doctor such as abdominal discomfort and low iron levels. However as I had pre-existing medical conditions, these symptoms were attributed to them and with no family history of bowel cancer, no alarm bells sounded.

In May 2015 I was scheduled for a routine hysterectomy and expected to be back to normal in a few weeks. However the news when I woke up post-surgery was not what I expected. CT scans the next day confirmed stage IV rectal cancer which had spread to an ovary and lymph nodes. Seven days after the initial surgery, I was back in theatre for a bowel resection resulting in a low end colostomy.

After three weeks in hospital I was sent home to get used to my 'new normal'. I underwent 13 rounds of treatment (Folfox 6 and Avastin) which I tolerated quite well except for peripheral neuropathy and fatigue. Along the way there has been a few bumps - a bowel obstruction, blood clot in a lung, hernia, failed reversal of colostomy. But in the big scheme of things this was a small price to pay to remain well.

I've certainly had some down days but I have had great support - and I urge anyone else in my shoes to take advantage of all the support services available. I have enjoyed meeting a 'buddy' through the Bowel Cancer Australia Peer to Peer Support Network. I always look forward to my calls from my Bowel Care Nurse and finding out about the other services that are available. It's great to know you have someone other than your friends and family that you can talk to and tell them how you really feel!

In early 2016 I had a clear PET scan and am currently on Xeloda to hopefully keep it that way!!

This year I will celebrate my 50th birthday. This is sometimes a milestone dreaded by many women but certainly not me! I will very happily blow out 50 candles and look forward to sharing this event surrounded by my beautiful family and friends!!

I feel very blessed to be able to share this special occasion with all those who continue to support me through this challenging period.

My advice to all my girlfriends reaching this milestone is that a mammogram is not the only thing you should be organising. I urge them (& their husbands) to all take advantage of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program or purchase a Bowel Screen Kit from a pharmacy. Early detection is the key to better survival rates.
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