At just 24, Hollie was told she had advanced bowel cancer which had spread to her liver, after battling stomach cramps and bloating for 24 months.
Doctors had attributed Hollie’s symptoms to Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
When they discovered the cancer, it was so advanced she was given just a five percent chance of being alive in five years.
Prior to my diagnosis I was suffering from being tired, I was experiencing bloating and stomach pains after eating. I approached the doctor and they said it was IBS, I returned again, and they said they would check for Coeliac Disease and did a blood test which showed I had low iron and my white cell markers were off, but nothing was done.
I returned again and asked for a colonoscopy and the doctor put me on a waiting list. I had to wait a while for the colonoscopy (the first one I had was abandoned because I woke up screaming, but there was one polyp that saved me, and I was booked in for another one). In the time of this I ended up in ER twice with horrible pains, but they said it was just girl problems, I had a large amount of fluid in my body, but they said it was a cyst bursting.
At this point I went and asked for an urgent colonoscopy where I finally got booked into one where they found the tumour blocking the bowel.
I had bowel surgery followed by port being put in, with three months of chemo. Then I had portal vein embolization, followed by liver surgery and 3 months of chemo.
During treatment I felt isolated. I felt weak. I felt alone. I felt nauseous from the treatment. I felt tired. But I also felt determined, courageous and committed to never give up and do anything I could to beat it.
A little update on how are things now? They’re Great. I’m five years cancer free.
Through all of this I have become so much more appreciative for life, my health and medical staff.
I found strengths I never knew I had, I found a mindset and belief in myself. I found out who my partner was at the time wasn’t who I thought he was, I developed post-traumatic stress, anxiety and I felt extremely lost.
I wouldn’t change any of it though, I have overcome so many challenges in the last five years, who I am is not who I was six years ago, and I am so proud of myself
No matter what advice you get, each experience is different. Nothing can prepare you for what you are going to go through. The only thing that is certain is the uncertainty. No having to know why it happened is the best way to look at it, take it as a blessing in disguise, one day at a time and do not google.
My advice to other Kick Ass women living with or beyond bowel cancer - Don’t Google, ha ha.
Be kind to yourself. Your body is doing an amazing job to get through this journey. Through all your surgeries and treatments, it still gets up each day and keeps on fighting.
Be proud of yourself, be grateful and celebrate each win, each day with love and with the supporters in your life.
Don’t sit on your symptoms, make health your biggest wealth, don’t ignore what your body tells you, fearing what “could” be wrong isn’t the way to live life, nothing is silly and taking preventive measures on all fronts could help save your life down the track.
Don’t be embarrassed to talk about poo, about your body, word of mouth is so powerful, the more we share, the more we communicate together as a community we can make a different.
And just because someone you know gets diagnosed with cancer doesn’t mean they aren’t the same human, don’t let the label change who they are, don’t let how you treat them change, the journey is already isolating enough.