I was trying to get pregnant when I first noticed the symptoms but didn’t think too much of it. It was only when I got pregnant that it got a little worse and when it didn’t ease after I had the baby, I decided to talk to my GP about it.
She sent me for a sigmoidoscopy. That doctor then referred me for a colonoscopy.
I was told it was serious when I woke up from my colonoscopy. Thankfully I quickly got into appointments for further testing within the next week. I was diagnosed Stage 3 in May 2010.
I had no additional symptoms other than feeling like I hadn’t emptied my bowels completely when I went to the toilet. I thought this was just haemorrhoids.
I had the opportunity to get onto a clinical trial thanks to my oncologist. In July/August 2010 I underwent six weeks of radiation and chemo in tablet form, which completely got rid of any evidence of the tumour.
The radiation did a whole lot of damage that I didn’t know until later down the track. I had talked to the doctors about the feeling of burning, thinking I had a UTI but was told it was usual.
In September 2010 I had a bowel resection, then a temporary ileostomy fitted. Once I recovered from that surgery, I had another 18 weeks of chemotherapy, both tablet and IV chemo every three weeks.
The trial drug was a little too powerful and put me in hospital for three weeks with non-stop vomiting and a loss of too much fluid through my ileostomy. Once I had recovered, my dosage was adjusted, and I continued on with treatment. After completing chemo, I underwent an ileostomy reversal in March 2011.
I am 10 years cancer free at the end of this year.
The chemo wasn’t too bad once the dosage was right. I did have slight sensitivity to the cold and the skin on my hands completely peeled off a few layers.
I still have side effects from the radiation. No one advised how much damage it could do internally to a female. No literature informed me of any of this either. My cervix had burnt shut and I needed surgery to reopen it. It is now starting to close again due to the ongoing effects of radiation.
The only advice I can give is that if you notice any changes in bowel movements do not be embarrassed to talk about it to your doctor. If you’re concerned, push for a colonoscopy. It doesn’t hurt to get checked out.
For young women going through radiation, ask about the damage the radiation can do internally, especially if you want kids in the future. Thankfully I had an amazing friend who was a surrogate for our second child, using embryos from our IVF with our first child. The damage to my uterus and surrounds was too much from the radiation to carry a child.