My Stage 3 bowel cancer diagnosis came completely out of the blue when I was 41 years old. I had recently returned to work after the birth of my third child, when I started having some stomach pain. The pain was quite severe for a few days but seemed to calm down for a few weeks between bouts. I was also extremely tired but attributed much of my symptoms to having a 10-month-old and two older kids, running a house, working and commuting each day.
After the third bout of the stomach pain I had to leave work as it was excruciating. I followed it up with my GP the next day and by then I could barely stay upright from the pain. The stars must have aligned for me that day and before I knew it, I had seen my amazing specialist and went into hospital for what I thought was a simple appendix removal.
During the procedure, my surgeon happened across a very large tumour in my right ascending colon and he promptly removed it through a small laparoscopic incision. My family patiently waited a very long six hours to hear from the doctor, who informed them of the mass and that it would be sent for pathology.
The following three days were a mixture of relief that this thing had been found, a painful recovery, and terror at what it might be. Which unfortunately came back as an adenocarcinoma. I then had another terrifying few days of coming to terms with it and the fear that it may have spread. Thankfully it had not spread beyond 3 of 27 lymph nodes, making it Stage 3b.
Six months of chemotherapy followed, which was extremely difficult. Especially with a 10-month-old and two older kids. My husband and supportive family rallied around, and I was able to get through the 6 months ok.
Looking back, I pushed myself too hard during chemo and worked right through so as not to frighten my children. In hindsight, this may have slowed my recovery. So, I would encourage anyone going through similar to take the time you need to heal.
As I approach the magic five years clear of this dreadful disease, I think of myself as very lucky that my cancer was detected when it was. I encourage everyone to listen to their bodies and if anything changes at all with your body, please see your doctor.