I was 50 and looking forward to my birthday bowel cancer test in the mail. Dr Karl Kruszelnicki appeared on the ads every single night until I had posted it in and then never appeared again. It was March 2022, and we got COVID not long after that. Our lives changed considerably, my partner went on tour, and I didn’t get around to doing anything about that letter - not until NSW Health started harassing my GP, who harassed me. They saved my life.
I’ve always had issues with my bowels, IBS or a metabolic disorder. Certain foods, alcohol, cigarettes and coffee all gave me diarrhoea. I had mainly given those things up by the time I was 50 but was put on iron tablets because it was low. They gave me terrible gas, bloody stools and weight loss, or I thought it was the tablets. I spent most of 2022 on the couch, tired out of my mind.
Finally in December 2022, I had my colonoscopy, and two polyps were found, one removed. The one removed had cancer in it and the one that remained couldn’t be removed - a robotic anterior resection was organised so quickly! It was a whirlwind, I barely had time to come to terms with having cancer. I was so tired I couldn’t even get a little bit fit for it either. All my iron was going to those polyps, no wonder I spent a year on the couch with the bunny.
By February 2023, the surgery was organised. Immediately post-surgery was melodramatic, my back stiffened up after five hours on the table and I woke up screaming, and was given a variety of things to make it better. I spent the first night in hospital with an on-demand drip and very floaty and happy. My partner there when I was wheeled into the ward was incredible, he was waiting for me.
I had my own room and the loveliest, nicest people you could ask for looking after me. The wonderful robotic surgeon, nurses, student nurses, food people, physio, everyone at the hospital, it was such an affirming time in a way. But I was allowed to go home at the right time, with fabulous scars (chicks dig scars!), and my family ready to look after me. My incredible partner and our animals, my sisters and nieces, I felt very loved.
The other polyp removed did have cancer in it, but the 29 lymph nodes also removed didn’t. T1 in one and T2 in the other. I won’t need any further treatment (bar maintenance). I feel like I’ve gotten away with something. If it wasn’t for the birthday test, Dr Karl, NSW Health and my own dear GP, I would not have.
I feel lucky and undeserving at the same time. I feel like I haven’t really had cancer, because I haven’t suffered - I didn’t have chemo, I didn’t lose my hair. This is not unusual. I have a couple of close friends who experienced similar emotions. But we did suffer. Surgery, even keyhole surgery is no joke. I’m not quite right even now. I cry a lot most mornings, I’m not sure why, but it’s cathartic, I’m a big believer in a good cry. The day my chicken realised I was home and let me pet her even though she is moulting was probably the best day, they can always tell when something is not right with their big Mumma.
Do your bowel test. If you’re under 50, you can buy one and do it - I actually did buy one several years ago but never got around to doing it (and they expire!!!). Listen to your body, make a doctor listen to you, if one doesn’t, go to another. You know when you’re not feeling quite right.
Finally my main advice post cancer is don’t eat quite so much after an anterior resection, you’ll make yourself miserable. Oh, and get FIT FIT before your surgery, otherwise you’ll have quite the trip down a rabbit hole.