21
Mar
2016
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Sandra's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 67, VIC)

Over a five year period I noticed changes in my bowel habits. However when I mentioned these to both my GP and neurologist (I have MS), I was told it was due to my MS.

When we moved to Melbourne in 201,3 I visited a new GP. I asked her what she would do if given my symptoms and I didn’t have MS?

She said she would refer me to a gastroenterologist, which she did.

Within two weeks I saw a gastroenterologist who booked me in for a colonoscopy and endoscopy for the following week.

A 5cm tumour in my rectum was discovered. From this point on I was quickly admitted to hospital and assigned a colorectal surgeon, oncologist and radiologist (my cancer team).
 
I was told I had stage two bowel cancer which hadn't grown through the bowel wall. It was decided I would have a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy for five weeks to try and shrink the tumour. Following this the plan was to remove the tumour along with some of the surrounding intestine.
 
Unfortunately I had to stop both the chemo and radiotherapy due to the side effects. My symptoms varied from fatigue and temperature fluctuations, to diarrhoea and some vomiting. My hair also began to thin out.

The high temperatures were the biggest problem and I had to be admitted to hospital twice and given antibiotics in an attempt to lower them. This was all before the surgery.
 
Finally I had the surgery - an ileostomy - 25cms of the lower intestine was removed and I was given a stoma. I lost 10 kilos after the surgery as I was vomiting and had diarrhoea on a regular basis. I lost all interest in food as I found the low-fibre diet recommended very bland. I saw a dietitian a couple of times who gave me Sustagen. An almost full tin still lives in our pantry. Very yukky stuff.
 
I don't think at any time "why me?" but what did really get me down was experiencing the worst MS exacerbation I had had since my initial MS diagnosis in 1989.

On the whole I have remained positive throughout most of the treatment. But I think this has been due to my inherent "Pollyanna" nature. I did feel quite angry at the lack of ongoing support after I was discharged from hospital after the ileostomy. I had to organise the RDNS myself and it cost a small fortune. This is the downside of being a private patient I guess!