From Sydney, Australia. 45 years old. Working mum (2 kids). Ocean swimmer. Bad-ass from way back. Bowel cancer survivor. Now super-bad ass (but the journey was tough).
Hi there, I’m Gem. I’m 31, and until August 2017 considered myself fit and healthy (or at least working on it at the gym and boot camp and generally doing the right thing).
My world got turned upside down last year when I was diagnosed with Stage IV bowel cancer. The technical terms on top of my forms, Stage IV Metastatic Colorectal Cancer – that is cancer that has spread to other organs. Goodness I went into hospital with gallstone pain…. And came out with cancer. At 30 years of age you don’t expect that bombshell when waking up from surgery to remove your gall bladder.
In 2013, I was 37 years old. Overnight I went from being healthy and extremely fit to fatigued. I worked full time (40 hours a week), was the secretary of the P&C, managed my son’s soccer team and ran the household. My husband insisted I was so tired because I was doing so much. I knew this wasn’t the case, as it was a sudden drastic change in my health.
"It won't be cancer, you're too young to have bowel cancer"
I received this misinformed advice from my GP after visiting him a number of times to discuss ongoing symptoms I had been experiencing. Sadly, since being diagnosed at age 27 with Stage 3C bowel cancer I have learnt that a number of other young women have had very similar experiences with their own health care professional.
I had a very difficult pregnancy with my third child and was hospitalised with severe pain for the final weeks as I was unable to walk.
Six weeks after giving birth at age 38 I was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer. The pain I had been experiencing throughout my pregnancy was actually a bone metastasis on my pelvis.