In May 2021 I visited a local GP as I was suffering from mild abdominal pain. The GP ordered bloods which came back all ok so I was advised to ‘take a look at my diet’. By August I was still suffering frequent abdominal cramps coupled with increasingly worse back pain, which I had put down to ergonomics and my office chair at home.
I visited a different GP who suggested a pap smear which came back clear. Again, I was advised to keep a food diary and keep a clean diet.
By September the pain got so intense I would be curled up in a ball at the end of each day in pain and taking a packet of ibuprofen a day to no relief. By this time I had also had diarrhea for two weeks. I visited a third GP and explained my symptoms. I will never forget the look on her face, she was extremely alarmed and referred me to see a gastroenterologist urgently for a colonoscopy.
A week later I had a colonoscopy and an 8.5cm tumour was discovered along with many polyps. The cancer had also spread to the lymph nodes and there were a couple of large nodes in the bowel also.
I immediately begun a course of chemotherapy and radiation to reduce the size of the tumour and spread before surgery.
I ended up suffering multiple bowel perforations, which was painful, so the decision was made to cease chemo early and operate immediately. In Feb 2022 I underwent a seven-hour operation for a bowel resection, full hysterectomy, removal of lymph nodes and a few other necessary nips and tucks in the pelvic region. Recovery has been slower and harder than I expected but I am so grateful to the surgical team and nurses that helped me get here.
I am now about to commence another course of chemo treatment, a necessary step due to the advanced stage of the cancer (Stage 3c) before surgery but I am confident of a disease-free confirmation at the end of it.
I was 38, an avid marathon runner with a healthy diet. There is no history of cancer in my family and bowel cancer was not a diagnosis that myself or several health professionals ever considered when I first became unwell.
In hindsight there were several symptoms that I dismissed early on and I should have advocated for further tests/answers at the initial GP visits instead of suffering through pain for months.
You are never too young, too fit or too healthy for a cancer diagnosis and the sooner it can be diagnosed the higher the chances and options for treatment.