I was diagnosed on Melbourne Cup Day, 2019. I was a 36-year-old, fit and healthy young mum going for a colonoscopy to get treated for haemorrhoids. I had given birth the year prior and had experienced some rectal bleeding, so my surgeon thought the bleeding was related to giving birth. Shockingly, it turned out I had bowel cancer instead.
I had other symptoms. A couple of months prior to my colonoscopy my bowel habits changed from going once or twice a day, to needing to do over 10 bowel motions per day. I knew something wasn’t quite right.
Luckily, my GP referred me to get my life saving colonoscopy. CT and MRI scans revealed that the tumour didn’t appear to have spread throughout my body and a month later I was admitted to hospital for surgery, for a bowel resection.
Within a week of my bowel resection, I began to feel unwell and was re-admitted to hospital with infection. I needed another surgery and got a colostomy bag fitted. I spent a total of 14 days in hospital, including Christmas Day.
During my hospitalisation, my husband and kids had the added stress of needing to evacuate our home due to the threat of bush fire. It was a really tough time. The whole experience has brought on anxiety which I’m still trying to manage to this day.
The positive news from my cancer story was that it was caught early. It was Stage 1 and required no chemotherapy. Also, my colostomy bag is a temporary measure.
I’m lucky to have had my GP take my symptoms seriously and refer me for a colonoscopy.
Many young people end up with advanced bowel cancer. They get misdiagnosed as having dietary intolerances, or worse, their GP believes they are too young to have bowel cancer.
My message is that bowel cancer can happen to young, fit people. Never be embarrassed to talk to your doctor about a sudden change in your bowel habits. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t right. The life you save could be your own.