I was 32 years old when I was diagnosed with Stage 3 bowel cancer. It was the last thing I expected.
I had been feeling extremely lethargic for a while, but just put this down to being a busy mum of two young children. Blood tests showed that my iron levels were very low (I’ve always had low iron, particularly during my pregnancies so this didn’t immediately ring alarm bells). I had an iron infusion, but this didn’t seem to help. It was about at this time that I noticed blood when I went to the toilet. I had a colonoscopy soon after and I woke up to the surgeon sitting on my bed telling me I had cancer.
It all moved very quickly. I was sent for scans to try and determine how far the cancer had spread and I was booked in for surgery less than a week later for a bowel resection. After spending a week in ICU from complications I was told that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and my treatment would now include chemotherapy. After having a second procedure to have a portacath inserted, I am now halfway through chemotherapy treatment.
My life has changed dramatically. Having cancer and going through chemotherapy has impacted my ability to parent my young children. And although they are young and do not completely understand, they have become very attached to me during this process. It is completely heartbreaking when I am too ill or exhausted and can’t take them to school or activities. I am usually a very independent person and don’t tend to ask for help, but thankfully I have wonderful family members and friends around us who have been incredibly supportive. I could not have gone through this process without them.
I would love to get the word out there, just to emphasise that this isn’t an old person’s disease. There are so many people that have reached out to me that were diagnosed in their 30’s and unfortunately they are generally Stage 3 or Stage 4.
Sometimes as a busy mum and wife, we don’t put our health first but it’s so incredibly important that if you aren’t feeling right (even just lethargic), see your GP and ask for blood tests just to be certain.
My advice for people going through this illness is just take each day as it comes. Ask for support from your friends and family to get through the bad days. Get support from a psychologist to help you process such a traumatic time in your life.