“I found a tumour” was the last thing I had expected to hear from my gastroenterologist after my colonoscopy at age 47.
I had seen my GP a few times since having a hysterectomy in 2017 and my issues were put down to post op effects of the surgery.
A few years later in 2020 the symptoms became worse, and I had some bleeding, urgency, abdominal pain and just generally feeling unwell. My GP decided that just to be sure she would refer me to a specialist. She said she didn’t think it was anything more than diverticulitis but let’s get it checked….
Fast forward to waking up in recovery and hearing those four words...
I was quickly taken for a CT scan before discharge to check if the cancer had spread and afterwards was sent home with the promise that a surgeon would call me to arrange a consult as soon as possible.
Now came the challenge of how to break the news to my children (17 and 13), fortunately my husband had the strength to tell them and we all just sat in disbelief.
The next day we were all very relieved to hear that the CT was all clear and my focus was now on the surgery.
I was admitted 10 days later for surgery and the surgeon removed 30cm of my bowel and 12 lymph nodes. A few days later we received the news that one of the lymph nodes contained cancer and it was recommended to commence chemotherapy once I had recovered from the surgery.
After 5 days in hospital, I went home to continue my recovery.
Six weeks after my surgery I found myself seeing an oncologist, something I never thought I would need to do. He explained that I had a 70% chance of the cancer not reoccurring with just the surgery I had had and if I chose to undergo chemotherapy it would increase to 80%.
Due to my age I decided to have the four rounds of chemotherapy that was suggested. The first round I was an absolute mess and cried as it was commenced in the chemo day unit. I was sent home with an oral chemotherapy and the plan was to come back in three weeks for another IV and start the cycle again.
Unfortunately, I had an allergic reaction to the oral chemotherapy, so my regimen was altered to two IV chemo drugs every three weeks.
The side effects of the chemo were very unpleasant, but I always made sure I had some nice plans in the week before the chemo when I felt relatively normal.
My last chemo dose was given in December 2020. I am now back at work a few days a week however still suffer numb fingertips and toes.
I am due to see the surgeon again at the end of March where he will check my bloods.
Since my diagnosis I have been speaking to anyone who will listen about the importance of doing the bowel kit or if under 50 pushing for the GP to refer for a colonoscopy if symptoms warrant.
I have also participated in a study about the increased incidence of bowel cancer in people under 50. I feel if people can learn from my experience then at least there was a purpose for going through it.