My bowel cancer journey began in May 2018 and little did I know that the symptoms I was experiencing would lead to such a diagnosis.
In May of 2018 I was the fittest I had ever been. I was running 5km every morning followed by a boxing class, then often off to work to do another class at lunch time or run the Jacobs ladder in Kings Park. I would never miss an opportunity to exercise and I was quite proud of my body and my achievements. I only ever ate clean whole foods and was able to turn down cakes and sweets. I was fit and strong!
But then I noticed my hair was falling out. My scalp was burning. I believed I had some kind of hormone condition because of the stress I was putting on my body due to all the exercise and strict eating habits. I visited the local GP. I was told I had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. I cried in the doctors office and she decided I was also depressed so sent me on my way with some anti depressants.
This didn’t sit well with me. I had a sleepless night of worrying and decided the very next day to find a new doctor. He ran some tests and confirmed my ferritin and iron levels were low and this was the cause of the hair loss. An iron infusion was ordered and I felt amazing but this didn’t explain why my iron was so low.
I bit the bullet as embarrassing as it may have been and told him I often had blood in my stool. I had blood in my stool for easily 10 years. I remember being told in my 20’s that I was too young and it was nothing. So I always dismissed it.
My new GP ordered a colonoscopy, so off I went thinking nothing of it except my GP being thorough. The day of the colonoscopy I was fine, not afraid at all but the look on the surgeons face when he came to me in recovery said it all.
He didn’t say what it was but I just knew it wasn’t great. Four days later I was called in to the GP and told I had a 7cm tumour in my bowel and those words “You have bowel cancer”. I didn’t cry. I just knew and I knew I had to get on with it and get rid of this horrid disease. I had to fight, I had to fight for my babies, my family and my friends. I felt the strong need to share my story openly and honestly. It hit my partner and family harder than it hit me on that June day.
So fast forward to surgery day in July 2018. I was ready.. I was ready to have this tumour removed. I begged and begged to not receive a stoma, but on waking to my family they told me I had to have one. I wasn’t happy about it but I appreciated that it was there to save my life and I got on with it. I embraced it. I had to and its just what I do…I am always looking forward and just getting things done.
I spent 8 days in the hospital. I had a billion visitors. I had so much love around me. How could I not fight with all I had? I had an army of supporters backing me 100%. 100% of the time. I never felt alone.
Recovery was slow going for a go getter like me. My usual pace at life is FAST.. all of the time. But I spent the time recovering with my family and loved ones. Getting my head around the ileostomy which turns out would be short lived.
4 weeks after my bowel resection surgery in July I was having some stomach pains and zero output from my stoma. The pain got worse and worse until I ended up in the ER having an MRI and discovering I had a blockage due to my intestines slipping under my bowel. This was the start of another 12 day stay in the hospital but with a silver lining. There is a positive in everything and I was able to have my stoma reversed after just 4 weeks!! Out of the bad often comes some good.
I started 12 rounds of Chemotherapy in September. Initially it was hard, but never totally terrible. I did hit number 6 and was very emotional but it was short lived as the slide towards the end was just over the hump. I have taken a different friend to most of my treatments. It creates awareness and the support is a tremendous uplifter.
I am now on round 11 with 2 weeks to go. I have a holiday with my family to look forward to two days after my treatment finishes and everything crossed for all clear scans when I get back. All going to plan there will be a celebration!
It has been a whirlwind of 10 months. But I have always tried to remain positive and have found there are more up days than down days. The support available is amazing and my advice to anyone embarking on this journey would be to take all the help you can get.
I have everything to live for. Instead of saying no to everything I am now a yes yes yes kind of girl!!!! It is just the wake up call my life needed. Its time to start living and enjoying.