2021 started out as a great year for me - I was thriving in my early thirties, focusing on my career, and planning my wedding after my recent engagement. But it all came to a standstill when in July '21, at age 32, I was told ‘you have cancer’.
For about 5 years I had been suffering what I now know to be the common signs of bowel cancer - severe anaemia (despite receiving iron infusions regularly with no success); abnormal stools; blood in my stools; and a few instances of severe abdominal pain. Over the course of those 5 years, I had seen numerous GPs who all didn't feel my symptoms were worthwhile investigating. Not one doctor considered I could have bowel cancer, and why??? Because I was too young and didn't fit the stereotypes.
Finally, I stood my ground and found a GP who listened to my pleas and who proceeded to send me for a colonoscopy. It was at that point that a large mass was found in my sigmoid colon which they believed to be cancer. CT scans later that night confirmed I had about 13 masses (one measuring a 10cm diameter!) throughout my liver and the following day I was informed I had Stage 4 bowel cancer - incurable and inoperable, with a poor prognosis.
Despite this being difficult news to digest, I was determined to not let these diagnoses get in the way of my life goals, truly believing positivity can help you conquer anything.
Fast forward to March 2023, and I can now say I am doing better than my doctors had anticipated! Once told I was inoperable, but now marching into the new year having already had two major surgeries - a liver resection and a bowel resection, plus a total so far of 33 cycles of treatment, I am feeling confident and making the most of the time I have been granted. I still have a long way to go but ‘it's not the destination that matters, it's the journey’.
My one piece of advice, don’t be a fool, check your stool! But in all seriousness, don't let your health slip in priority. If you have concerns make sure you follow up and get the answers you need. Had my cancer been caught years earlier like it should have been, I would be cancer free by now, but instead I may never be.
Enjoy every day and make the most of life.