I was 34 years of age when I found out I had bowel cancer in 2007.
My husband and I were trying for a second baby, when I suffered a miscarriage in early 2007. Like most couples, we got back on the bandwagon shortly thereafter and in July 2007 we discovered we were pregnant again. At the 8-week mark, I had an ultrasound and discovered that ‘something’ was sitting on top of my uterus.
Further investigation, lots of scans and a laparoscopy later, I was told I had bowel cancer. The ‘something’ that was sitting on my uterus was the cancer, which was attached to my bowel and was the size of a lemon.
Much goes through your mind when given this diagnosis whilst pregnant with your second child. We were fortunate enough to have a great Obstetrician who contacted a lot of doctors and sought advice for us. Ultimately, we were given choices. We chose to have surgery to remove the cancer and would decide thereafter what we would do.
At 11 weeks pregnant I underwent a lower colon resection to remove the tumour that was sitting on my uterus. It was very touch and go if the baby would even survive the surgery.
Tests post-surgery showed that the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes and categorised as Stage 2.
The baby survived the surgery, coupled with the diagnosis that the cancer hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes or anywhere else, the surgery was a success. As I was pregnant at the time, I couldn’t undergo any chemotherapy which I knew and chose given the outcome from the surgery.
At the time, I didn’t think I had any symptoms. In hindsight, my bowel movements weren’t normal, and I felt sluggish and tired. I had put these symptoms down to being a mum to a 1-year-old and working a full time.
Fast track to April 2008 and my healthy daughter, Lola, was born. After she was born, I had more tests on my liver and other parts to ensure nothing has gone undetected. I had colonoscopies every 12 months, then every 2 years and now I’ve just moved to every 5 years. I have yearly scans on my liver to monitor some growths detected through this process (non-cancerous) which will continue.
My advice to anyone going through cancer – if something doesn’t feel right, get it checked out. If you’re not happy with advice you’re getting, seek further advice or get a second opinion. You have choices to make, and everyone makes theirs based on evidence, facts, statistics, and what is right for them. Follow your own instincts and don’t be afraid to ask questions.