February 15th, 2023, the day life as I knew it changed...
5 days leading up to February 15th, I had what I thought was constipation. I was quite uncomfortable to start, but then a few days later the pain was becoming worse, and I still couldn't pass anything. I went to the GP and was given a colonoscopy prep drink to take as we just thought I was constipated. He said, ‘this will clean you out’. It was when that drink didn't work at all, that I knew something was terribly wrong. The pain was now excruciating, it was the middle of the night, I was vomiting, and I was absolutely beside myself in pain.
As a single mum, I had my two children in bed, so I waited until the sun was up, before taking action. I woke up my 14-year-old son at 5am and said, ‘I have to go to hospital. I'm calling the ambulance’, we woke up my 11-year-old daughter to let her know I was going to hospital and that the ambulance was now on its way. It was the scariest time for the 3 of us...Once I arrived at hospital, I was taken straight in to have a CT scan and within about 20 mins I was being diagnosed with bowel cancer.
There was a large tumour obstructing my bowel and sadly it had spread to my liver, with 2 metastases. Stage 4 bowel cancer! It was the ABSOLUTE last thing on my mind! I was alone and in complete shock. A social worker came to see me straight away. I wanted to talk to them before I would make any calls to family to let them know.
In less than 24 hours, I was taken in to have the Colostomy surgery to have the tumour in my bowel removed and a stoma placed in the sigmoid part of the Bowel. The tumours on my liver are too large to operate, so they wanted me to begin an aggressive course of chemo as soon as I could.
Within 3 weeks after the colostomy surgery, I had my first round of chemo. The first round was okay, I had some neuropathy, cold sensitivity and fatigue, all the expected thing, but by round 3 the side effects had built up in my system and that round really knocked me. I had lots of cramps in my calves and extreme cold sensitivity, lots of neuropathy and a tiredness I had never experienced in my life.
I was all geared up to have my 4th round of chemo on Monday the 24/4/23, but unfortunately my white blood cell count was extremely low at .3, a usual reading is between 2-8, so unfortunately the 4th round has been delayed until the white blood cells are up again. It was a bit of a knock to the confidence and a little step backwards, but hopefully we can commence round 4 this coming week.
The plan is that after round 6, the tumours will have shrunk enough to be able to have surgery to remove what is left of the metastasis and then another 6 rounds chemotherapy once I have recovered from that operation.
I still have a long way to go, however I have incredible support from family and the community around me, so there is no way I can't beat this. It has been the biggest whirl wind for my family and in the midst of this storm, it still doesn't seem real that this could happen to me, a fit, healthy 43-year-old lady!
It was only in hindsight that there were some symptoms I should have taken seriously, but, like I said, it was the ‘absolute’ last thing on my mind. I had no bleeding, bowel cancer isn't in my family, and I was feeling well. The main thing I had noticed was that from a couple of months prior to the first trip to hospital, was my stools had thinned. That was only in retrospect, that I now know that is a very important sign.
The BIGGEST thing I would like to get out there for awareness, to the community at large, is to go and see your doctor if there are any changes in SIZE or colour of stools. Some people have bleeding and other symptoms, but this was my main one. I just wish I was aware enough of bowel cancer before this, so we could have got it sooner.
So, it is very important to me that this needs to get out into the public. If your doctor says you're just constipated, yet you feel that there is more to it, follow your instincts and have further scans or request a colonoscopy.