My name is Barbara and I was first diagnosed with rectal cancer in 2015, three days after I turned 60. I am the youngest of six children, mum and dad lived till 85 and 91 respectively and there is no record of any cancer in my family history.
I had been experiencing some bleeding, but both my daughters had had the same and were both given a diagnosis of colitis, so I thought I would be told the same. I also had blood tests done which indicated NO bowel or ovarian cancer! It was therefore a great shock to be given the “Big C “ news.
I guess because I had private health insurance things moved very quickly and after a CT scan and MRI I was operated on within about ten days of my diagnosis, had part of my rectum removed and lived with an iliostomy for five months.
I was told all the margins were clear, along with my pathology results, so I did not need any chemotherapy. Once my iliostomy was reversed I thought I was completely in the clear.
The following year I had a follow up colonoscopy and CT scan and was told everything was fine.
In 2017 my partner and I made the decision to move to Queensland. Once I found a new doctor I followed the advice I was given and had another follow up CT scan. This time I was given the news that, when comparing this scan with my previous one, there was something not right.
I was sent for a Pet Scan which showed up four hotspots in my pelvis area. Only one surgeon deals with these diagnoses and once again, because I had private health insurance I was sent to him. I was offered a course of chemotherapy and radiation therapy before my operation but I declined this option, knowing I would have to have the major surgery anyway.
I was operated on in September 2017, a 14-hour operation called a Total Pelvic Exenteration where I lost part of my bowel, my bladder, my uterus and ovaries, my anus and vagina, my coccyx and S3 sacrectomy. A plastic surgeon used part of my “six pack” to make a “flap” to replace the part of my rear end that had been removed. I was in hospital for one month and came home with a permanent colonoscopy bag and a permanent urostomy bag and permanent nerve damage in my left foot due to the severing of a nerve when removing my coccyx.
This time I have taken up the offer of a six-month period of chemotherapy, as a possible guarantee that I will not find myself with another diagnosis of cancer down the track. I am in the second of eight cycles of the chemotherapy and so far I have found it without too many of the possible side effects.
I am so very lucky to have a supportive partner who has been by my side throughout the whole ordeal. I am also keeping a positive, upbeat attitude and trying to carry on with my life without feeling sorry for myself or without stopping doing everyday activities.
I am looking forward to the day when I am told I am in remission.
I hope my story can be used to help other women who may be experiencing bowel cancer.