In January 2019, at 40 years of age I received my bowel cancer diagnosis. I’d been hospitalised for stomach pain, which at first, they thought was my Lupus flaring. Then they thought it was appendicitis, then the last test was a colonoscopy to rule out Crohn’s disease. I never in a million years thought it was cancer.

Three weeks later I had a right hemicolectomy for Stage 3c bowel cancer. Two out of 18 lymph nodes affected and had gone through my bowel wall into my peritoneum. I had six months of fortnightly chemotherapy which ended in September 2019.

As I write this, I am about to have my first check-up colonoscopy on Friday, and although my chemo was “mop up” and they considered my cancer to be removed after my surgery, you can’t help but worry about recurrence. This time last year I was blissfully unaware of the year I was about to have!

The physical, financial and emotional toll this illness has taken on myself and my family is intense. My eldest daughter started Year 12 while I was in hospital recovering from surgery and she managed to pass. But it was a terribly difficult year for her! My husband and I are a blended family with ‘his 4’, ‘my 3’ and ‘our one’ - aged from 26 down to 6. I hated seeing them having to put on a ‘brave face’ and they all had differing ways of dealing with it.

Having come through the other side (for now), all I can say to newly diagnosed patients is to accept help. Ask for help. Connect with other people through social media who are going through what you are. My Facebook Group helped me so much to feel ‘normal’. It’s a big lesson that we are not an island and sometimes you just have to reach out.

Each person deals with it differently and there is no right or wrong way to navigate this path. You do what you have to do!!! No judgement. Just get through. I have a terribly dark sense of humour, so a lot of my coping strategies are somewhat, unusual!

Wishing every person affected by bowel cancer a happy 2020. It’s not where any of us want to be, but by raising awareness and being there for each other, it makes it so much easier.