2013, what a year! My dad was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in June and I gave birth to my first child in December.
In 2014 I was quite busy being a first-time mum and calling in on dad and mum regularly. I mentioned to mum that the iron tablets I was taking were making my stools an orange colour, to which mum advised iron should make them black not orange. She suggested that maybe I should stop taking them for a bit and see what happens, which I did.
I then realised that it was actually blood in my stools, so I contacted the doctor, who said that having just given birth it was most likely a tear in the bowel and I was to go on a waiting list for a colonoscopy.
There were three or four times when I had severe abdominal pain, but after going to the toilet a few times, it relieved itself and I couldn't exactly pinpoint when I had these abdominal pains (e.g. if I ate too much dairy etc).
The day before my son's first birthday I went in for my colonoscopy (fully thinking that it would be a tear in my bowel as that is what a couple of the specialists had said). But I awoke to the doctor telling me that I had bowel cancer, I couldn't believe it, I was 27 years old.
I was rushed off to have all sorts of scans and things, told that I had stage 3 bowel cancer and they would like to start treatment straight after Christmas. My only concern was, after all this could I possibly have more children? To which they said, “we don't know”.
They mentioned about freezing eggs but as this was at Christmas time all fertility places were closed. I would have had to fly to Melbourne and it would have taken another month or more before we started my radiation, which my doctor wanted to get started ASAP. So I thought I’d had the most precious gift of being able to have a child, if I can't have any more so be it. But I would like to be around to see my son grow up.
Jan 2015 - My first port of call was a gynaecologist who lifted my ovaries, so they would be out of harm’s way when the radiation started (this was also so I didn't go into early set menopause, being so young).
Feb 2015 - I had six weeks of radiation which I smashed out of the park! I had no troubles at all.
June 2015 - I had my operation and had an colostomy bag put in, so it would give my bowel a chance to heal. I went back to the surgeon a few weeks later to have a check-up, only to be told that the cancer had got into my lymph-nodes. I was heartbroken. I had done so well, and I thought - well this is it, once it's in your lymph-nodes you're as good as dead, but that was a myth!
I started chemotherapy in July 2015 and I had eight months of that, which knocked me for six! There were a few times I thought I couldn't go on, but seeing my baby's face I had to.
April 2016 - I had my colostomy reversal and my port taken out (where they put the chemo).
Since then I have been having all my regular check-ups and scans and I am so far so good. It is such a trialling time for a young family to go through, but we made it and are better people for it.
Never think you are too young for bowel cancer. It attacks anyone, no matter their age.
I guess I am so blessed to have such a beautiful family, and friends who helped us out so much through the tough couple of years we had.
I did source remedial therapies during those couple of years, reflexology, reiki and herbal supplements (I checked with my oncologist and my surgeon before doing any of this, and they both said - if it makes you feel better in yourself please go ahead and do it. Which I did and I think that helped me mentally more than anything).
Thanks for listening to my story