I was a busy working mum of four children, I felt tired all the time, and for the last three months prior to my diagnosis I felt queasy and sick every time I ate something.
I ignored a lot of the symptoms explaining it away as being ‘just a busy mum’, until one day I couldn’t ignore it anymore.
I was experiencing severe abdominal pain that would come in intervals like I was in labour. I tried to put up with the pain until I couldn’t any longer, and I called an ambulance. They had to stop the ambulance three times on the way to the hospital (only a 15min drive) to keep administering morphine due to the severe pain I was in.
Once at the hospital it all became a blur of pain medication, tests, and tubes down my nose and throat that was draining something that looked green. After spending overnight in the emergency department and some tests, the next day they told me they were moving me to another hospital and I might have ‘Crohn’s disease’, an obstruction in my bowel or maybe bowel cancer.
I heard those words ‘bowel cancer’ and I was floored. My grandmother had passed away from this and I instantly felt that is probably what it was.
I arrived at the new hospital, where within an hour I was signing forms to say I was consenting to surgery and that I could end up with a colostomy bag. I was terrified. I had never had an abdominal surgery before, and I was so scared.
When I woke up after the surgery I was met by the surgeon who said to me ‘we found a tumour’. I said, ‘what does that mean, do you mean cancer?’ and she said yes! It felt like I had the wind sucked out of me.
The surgeon said they had removed part of my right colon and that the tumour had presented in what she believed to be a genetic form. It was a lot to process at the time. She said to me they believed they had got it all. They had to give me a blood transfusion.
The next week was recovery and extreme pain. The pain meds made me sick and I had all my family and friends coming to see me. I must have looked awful because everyone that came to see me was looking at me with sadness and pity. I believed I would die, because my grandmother had died.
I was so scared I asked to speak to a social worker where I relayed my fears of dying and leaving my husband and four kids without a husband and wife. I made the social worker cry.
I later found out it was Stage 1. They had removed my cancer via surgery and didn’t believe I needed chemo or radiation. That was great news. I had to have blood tests every six months though.
I then went on to have genetic testing as per my specialist’s recommendations. I was tested for Lynch Syndrome or HNPCC as it is also called. I tested positive and was now a walking time bomb, or so I believed.
I was at a huge risk of colon, uterine and ovarian cancers. Around an 80% chance I was told. There were risks for other types too. Such as urethra, brain, skin, stomach, duodenum, and many others. New testing shows also for breast.
I was devastated. Not so much for me, but for my children. You see genetic means 50/50 chance for them to have it and with four children, what were the odds.
I was recommended to have a complete hysterectomy, if I had completed my family. I didn’t even think about it. I booked in to get it done. So, at 33 by this point, I made the decision to have the hysterectomy. This all happened by 34 year’s old, and surgical menopause came immediately.
My diagnosis has been something that I have found incredibly hard. I am not the same person I used to be. I now have anxiety, which is something I never had before. I now suffer bouts of depression and have irrational fears and worry. I live with a black cloud. It follows me around.
But I am thankful for my journey of survival. I know I am lucky as it was found early. I feel angry for the cancer gene but lucky I know about it, as knowledge is power. My kids can be tested at 18 years old and my oldest boy is 18 in six months so we can find out then.
I try not to think about my risks as I could send myself crazy and just try to focus on my blessings.