I had no symptoms of bowel cancer whatsoever. My Kick Ass Story starts with a shooting pain near my ribs one day out of the blue. Being the lady that I am I thought it was trapped wind and tried to fart, that didn’t work. Every 30 mins or so the pain would return to the point that six hours later I was in tears with it.
I attended our local Urgent Care Centre where they were stumped and sent me as an “urgent” case to ED. I then spent six hours in a waiting room before being seen.
After a bunch of tests and a chest X-ray they sent me home saying I had pulled a muscle. I had spent over 12 hours between these places and had nothing to eat or drink as I was by myself. On returning home I was sick both before and after a slice of toast. I returned to Urgent Care the next morning as I vomited again, and it was just bile.
He sent me for an ultrasound to check for gallstones which unfortunately for me showed two lesions on my liver instead!
Another appointment with the Urgent Care doctor followed, where he sent me for a bunch of blood tests which unknown to me were all cancer specific ones. The only one that came back as dodgy was bowel with a marker of 770!
A referral for a colonoscopy the following week showed a mass in my colon. The bombshell was dropped at 5:30pm Wednesday 18/12/19, cheers Santa.
I got a call from the oncologist the next morning to see him at lunchtime on 19/12/19 and on the morning of 20/12/19 I was admitted for the weekend to undergo my first round of chemo. Stage 4 bowel cancer with two liver mets of 7cms and 5cms - scared the living bejesus out of me!
The colonoscopy doctor reckoned the liver mass had been there for possibly two years with no symptoms, NONE!
I had six months of chemo which luckily obliterated the bowel mass and it hasn’t returned. The liver mets had shrunk to an acceptable level for surgery and so eight months into this I had a hemi-hepatectomy where they removed half of my liver.
Unfortunately, one of the tumours fragmented, leaving microscopic cells behind and two months later there were more tumours to deal with.
Back on chemo and by February 2021 I was given the ‘all clear’ again but stayed on chemo a bit longer to make sure they were gone. In April 2021 I lost my wee mum to breast cancer, so I stayed on chemo a bit longer as I was a bit too scared to stop.
I had my last treatment on 28/6/21 and a PET scan was performed on 26/7/21 which showed I had two new tumours! They’re stubborn little suckers!!
I was then referred for radio frequency ablation and SIRT sphere radiation, both of which I was deemed unsuitable for. So, it was back to liver surgery.
17/9/21 I had a liver resection but they only managed to remove one tumour. The other one was found to be wrapped around my bile duct vessel and had invited three new friends to join it in a conga line!! The liver surgeon then told me I would need a stent inserted to prevent the tumours from strangling the vessel and potentially causing liver failure.
It was a pretty crappy 10 days before I could see my oncologist who said that wasn’t necessary and it was time to go back on chemo. I am now currently hooked up to my 36th round of the stuff but it works and for that I’m willing to put up with all the crappy side effects that come with it!
I had another PET scan done on 2/2/22 (I took this a good omen) and it shows no sign of active disease. Again, I’m staying on chemo for a month or six to make sure they don’t come back again.
Unfortunately, it has caused a paralysed diaphragm in my right lung so I have the breathing skills of a ‘90 a day smoker’ and it can’t be repaired.
I was 47 when I was diagnosed, too young for the bowel test kit. If I’d had no pain in my liver then by the time I would be eligible for the kit I might not have been here. I turn 50 this year and to be honest it’s a milestone I didn’t think I would make.
I’ve tried to be as positive about this whole experience as I can be, some days are easier than others. I joke about my side effects, I laugh at my hair thinning, I complain about my sore feet and my acid reflux though! I’ve had long hair for as long as I can remember and now it’s just getting level with my ears. As shallow as it sounds, that’s the big thing that I hate about it all. I don’t really feel like me anymore more.
I also hate the fact that I had to give up my thriving, growing little florist business that I loved. Bouts of fatigue, neuropathy in hands and feet and also cracked skin on my hands made the risk of infection too high. Plus, I couldn’t guarantee what days were going to be good ones or bad ones.
Please, if you get a test in the mail, do it. If you have any symptoms, go get them investigated. If you get turned away with a pulled muscle, keep turning up until they take you seriously.
Advocate for yourself and save your life.