How lucky am I, having had two family members survive bowel cancer I grew up knowing the signs, so when I was told I was imagining things I had the courage to insist a referral to our family gastroenterologist (quite brave for an 18yo!).

The following colonoscopy results were a shock to us all given my age, but I was quickly referred to the wonderful surgeon. I am from Wodonga and in 1998 specialist services and cancer treatments were limited. Again, luck was on my side as I had my wonderful aunt who was a bowel cancer survivor nearby to care for my father and I.

Because of my age and sings of future issues it was decided that a jpouch was my best treatment rather than a resection, this involved taking all of my large colon leaving the rectum intact and creating a “reservoir” with my small intestine.

This meant having a colostomy bag for just over three months but again somehow, I lucked out and was able to skip the now mandatory chemo. It was a borderline decision at the time and since I have not had any reoccurrence of my bowel cancer since, is one I was and am grateful for.

I have had two other forms of cancer but I again am lucky because of vigilance and not taking my health for granted it has always been caught early. I am forever grateful to my gastroenterologist, surgeon and the magnificent nurses and staff at the hospital. I’ve had an interesting 24 years and they gave that to me.

My advice, give yourself time after to process all you have been through. Going through the treatment can be just putting one foot in front of the other to get what needs to be done. It’s afterwards that it hits you and everyone expects you to be ok or on top of the world. Be kind to them and be kinder to yourself.

Always take someone sensible who can take notes and ask relevant forward-thinking questions - you will forget what you are told about the impacts. It is not the end of the world. You can do this and so much more.