I don’t know how best to do this, but my message is important, so I wanted to share my story.
The story I am talking about is bowel cancer, and I’m not talking about bowel cancer in older men. I’m talking about bowel cancer in a 32-year-old woman.
I have never shared how I came to find out I have bowel cancer and I think it’s important, so people know what to look for and to trust their bodies and what they are telling them. Pre-warning this is a long one…
The very first thing I noticed was the enlarged lymph nodes on the left side of my neck. I went to the doctor and they said they were just swollen glands, as I had had a cold. So off I went, waiting for them to disappear. Five weeks later they were still there. So, on Monday 29 August I decided to make another appointment with the doctor, for the following day. I didn’t get a chance to make it to that appointment.
That night when I went to bed both my arms began to ache with unbearable pain, along with my head, right ear, throat and stomach simultaneously. I had some really strong pain killers, so I had one and nothing happened. I had another and when the pain still didn’t subside, I asked my partner Eddie to take me to emergency, as I felt my body was shutting down. They kept me over night and hooked me up to some morphine, which still did nothing for the pain. The doctor felt my neck and immediately sent me for a CT scan. They didn’t say, but we knew they were checking for lymphoma.
They then sent me to get further CT scans on my stomach. We got to the hospital and they booked me in for a scan in about a weeks’ time and sent me home.
On the Wednesday I woke in the night with a huge migraine, so I made Eddie take me back to the emergency room. This is the best thing I could have done because then I was an ‘in-patient’ and they were able to do the scan that day. From that scan they admitted me and did three more CT scans, two biopsies on my neck and an MRI.
Following the biopsy results they confirmed on the Friday night that it was definitely cancer. However, they still needed a few more results to determine whether it was lymphoma or some other kind of cancer that had spread. They sent me home on the Friday and I came back to do a PET scan on the Monday.
The PET scan showed two definite tumours and how cancer-y (technical Emma) they were, so they were able to confirm I had bowel cancer.
I then had to have a colonoscopy (worst ever) and a few weeks later we had an appointment with our amazing oncologist, and he confirmed it was Stage 4 bowel cancer. Stage 4 because it had spread all the way from my bowel to my lymph nodes, and we started chemo the next week.
I had no specific symptoms related to my bowels and I have no family history. I was just super tired, had massive weight loss, stomach aches and the occasional epic migraine. But when you have a new baby this was all assumed to be part and parcel of that.
Thanks for reading my essay. If it helps one person to follow up their doctor, listen to and trust their body, and be aware that even being so young, with no family history and no specific symptoms, to get on top of any kind of illness, it will be so worth the read.
Please take care of yourselves and the ones you love!