In June 2020 I experienced three days of constipation. Increasing pain led me to seeing a GP and use some strong laxatives.

By the evening on the third night, I couldn’t eat, and the pain was unbearable. I was 32yrs old and had been married to my beautiful Peter for one year.

Scans revealed a bowel obstruction, and I woke from surgery the following day with a 23cm scar down my middle, a temporary ileostomy and the news that I had a tumour. Test results came back a few days later confirming it was malignant. I had Stage 2/3 sigmoid adenocarcinoma.

I had two months off work and six months of oral chemotherapy.

In March 2021 my post-treatment tests came back with high tumour markers. Subsequent scans revealed recurrence in the uterus, ovary and small bowel.

In the space of one month, I felt the elation of ‘ringing the bell’ celebrating the end of chemo, to the devastation that I had Stage 4 bowel cancer. I was 33.

On 15th April 2021 I had a 12hr surgery at RPAH. The Peritonectomy removed my uterus, ovaries, resected multiple parts of my small bowel, recreated the temporary ileostomy and created a colostomy. I had a 45m HIPEC (a warm chemo bath pumping throughout my peritoneal). I was discharged from hospital 66 days after being admitted.

I had a total of 10 months off work and underwent 12 rounds of Folfox IV chemo.

In February 2022 my PET scan showed no signs of disease.

In June 2022 I had recurrence in my ab muscle and my lungs.

I commenced a radiation/chemo combo in January 2023. I had a 120km round trip for treatment for 25 days.

I’m now one-week post-treatment and am finding a reason to smile every day. I won’t know the efficacy of my recent treatment until I have scans in March, but I’m not letting that stop me from living life. I’m working full time, spending time with my husband, dogs and family. I’ve played some sport and spend a lot of time in my garden. I’m looking forward to getting back on the hockey field again this year!

My diagnosis is not my identity, and I refuse to let it limit the joy I get out of life. I refuse to let it take my smile.

Bowel cancer is the deadliest cancer for Australians in the 25-34yr age bracket.

Trust your gut instinct. If you notice any changes to your body, speak up!