In 2013, I was 37 years old. Overnight I went from being healthy and extremely fit to fatigued. I worked full time (40 hours a week), was the secretary of the P&C, managed my son’s soccer team and ran the household. My husband insisted I was so tired because I was doing so much. I knew this wasn’t the case, as it was a sudden drastic change in my health.
Part of my lifestyle was following a low carb high protein diet. I decided I wanted to challenge myself, so I registered to do a diet and exercise program. I thought if I want to do this program properly I will follow the meal plan which contained gluten and carbs. I felt sick after eating the meals and also had a lot of diarrhoea. Frustrated by how tired I was and how sick I felt after eating the meals, I went to the doctors to try and work out what was going on.
My doctor at the time thought I might have a gluten sensitivity and sent for me bloods and a stool test. I was later sent for a colonoscopy and a gastroscopy. When I woke up from recovery I was taken in to see the surgeon. My husband was brought in and there was also a nurse in the room. This was my first colonoscopy, so I didn’t think anything of it. The surgeon apologised to me for having to give me this news, ‘you have a tumour in your bowel and I am afraid it is malignant’. I actually felt a sigh of relief and looked at my husband and told him ‘I knew there was something wrong’.
I was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer. I had radiation, followed by chemotherapy, surgery to remove the tumour, an ileostomy, and 10 more procedures over the next four years due to complications from radiation/perforated bowel.
In July 2015 at my 40th birthday party, my aunty asked me about what symptoms I had prior to my diagnosis. She then told me she had been bleeding from her bowel. I told her to get her backside quick smart to the doctor to make sure everything is ok. My aunty was later diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer. She was also treated with radiation, chemotherapy and had a temporary ileostomy.
In December 2015, two weeks before Christmas my world fell apart. My husband Shayne had some blood in his stools. He didn’t want to worry me, and because of everything we had been through over the last couple of years he went straight to see our doctor. Our doctor was fabulous and took no chances and he ordered some immediate tests. Within 48 hours of seeing the doctor, my husband was diagnosed with bowel cancer. You won’t believe this, but Shayne had a tumour in the same place (very low) as me and he would endure the same treatment (radiation, chemotherapy and an ileostomy).
Shayne had a family history of bowel cancer. So in 2016 his mum went to see if she had the cancer gene and they found she had an early stage malignant tumour in her large bowel. She did not require chemo or radiation, just surgery to remove the tumour.
In December 2017 my father in-law was also diagnosed with early stage bowel cancer in his large bowel. Same as my mother in-law. No chemo or radiation, just surgery to remove to the tumour.
Today I have a permanent colostomy, living a full active life and I am extremely grateful. I feel due to my experience I helped save four people’s lives – my husband’s, my aunt’s, my mother-in-law’s and my father-in-law’s. Would they have gone to the doctor as early as they did had they not seen what I had gone through? My husband himself said he probably would have just ignored it, but had seen the seriousness of it firsthand.
I seriously recommend living a healthy active life, listen to your body – you know your body better than anyone else. If you experience any symptoms please do not let it go, go to the doctor. You are never too YOUNG and EARLY detection will save your life!
I am enrolled for the Bowel Cancer Peer-to-Peer Support and on the volunteer list. I am VERY passionate about helping where I can.