It was February 2018, and I was five months pregnant with my second child when I started experiencing ongoing diarrhoea. I was having to go to the toilet at least 10 times in a day. But I wasn’t too concerned because I experienced the same thing when I was 37 weeks pregnant with my first child and at that time, I put it down to late-stage pregnancy and the pressure of a baby growing.
Given I still had a few months to go, this time I went to the GP. She requested bloods and a stool sample which I did. I went back for the results and she said the results showed inflammatory markers and it was probably a bug and gave me some antibiotics and told me to come back in a couple of weeks once I’d finished them.
I went back and had to do more samples and bloods and the results came back again and she said the inflammatory markers were still there but had gone down. I said, ‘what does that mean’ and I’ll never forget what the GP said to me – ‘don’t worry about it’.
A few days after that, I had a check-up with my obstetrician and told her about it and what the GP had said. She said it was definitely something to worry about and gave me a referral to a gastroenterologist. I made that appointment and went and saw him and he said with my symptoms, age and no family history of bowel cancer that it was probably inflammatory bowel disease.
He didn’t want to do a colonoscopy while I was pregnant because it wasn’t urgent. So he said to come back six months after the baby was born and things had settled for a colonoscopy.
I didn’t end up getting the colonoscopy until 30th May 2019 and that was the day that changed my life. Three months before my 30th birthday I was told I had cancer.
After I woke up from the colonoscopy, I was immediately sent for a CT scan to see if it had spread. My gastroenterologist had already been on the phone to a surgeon at a different hospital who I met on the 3rd of June and was scheduled to have my whole large bowel removed on the 10th. I had 1100 polyps through my large bowel, two had turned cancerous and it was on my lymph nodes which is Stage 3.
I had a temporary ileostomy (stoma) for five months while my new internal j pouch healed and three months of chemo. Luckily for me all the cancer was removed during surgery and my oncologist was confident from the start it would all be ok. I’m now almost two years post diagnosis and just a couple of weeks ago I had a routine PET scan and bloods done and it was all clear!
My advice to anyone who has concerning symptoms, or if something doesn’t feel right, is to not put off a check-up. If you’ve been to the doctor and don’t feel comfortable with what you’ve been told, don’t hesitate to get a second or third opinion. It could save your life.