I started to feel unwell during the latter stage of December 2014. I was often very tired, weak and had lost weight which I attributed to a lack of appetite due to erratic abdominal pain.
When I began experiencing an inconsistency in bowel habits I saw my GP and they thought I had a stomach bug. Despite treatment, my symptoms persisted and after more GP visits, a full round of tests were undertaken, resulting in a trip to Emergency for an iron infusion as my levels were critically low.
A Gastroenterologist examined me whist in Emergency and booked me in for a colonoscopy. It was during that a 6cm tumor was discovered, along with hundreds of polyps in my colon. I was told I had cancer - a huge shock given my age, relative health and no family history.
By March 2015 I had undergone surgery where most of my colon was removed (ileo-rectal anastomosis) and after a six-week recovery from the operation I was back to hospital for my first round of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy was tough!
I was being treated for Stage 3 cancer (the tumor had gone through the bowel wall) and it was a difficult journey. My chemo treatment involved an infusion in hospital every second week with a “take-home” bottle that drip fed me additional drugs for another 48 hours before I returned to hospital to have it removed.
This was the routine for six months before I celebrated my last chemo round, a very big milestone! I was incredibly tired and often nauseous throughout my chemotherapy treatment and I relied on the help of family and friends as well as the support of the incredible hospital staff (both doctors and nurses), without which I don’t think I would have gotten through.
Even though it was a difficult journey I maintained a very positive attitude to my treatment and I always felt like I would reach a successful result. Stay positive!
It took me a full year to regain my strength and to come through the ‘fog’ of treatment and now, over two years post treatment I am feeling back to my old self and am getting on with a normal ‘cancer free’ life! I had the last CT scan required post chemo treatment at the end of last year, and with no recurrence of my cancer detected, I am in remission.
I was fortunate to have great medical support and a successful treatment. My advice to others is to listen to your body and seek medical advice when something doesn’t feel right. Bowel cancer is a disease that affects the entire population – as a healthy woman in my early 40s it wasn’t something I was expecting at all, but if it is detected early enough, it is treatable and the rate of successfully overcoming bowel cancer is good.
I have returned to work and I am enjoying spending time with my husband and our young daughter, watching her grow up. Life has returned to normal for me and I feel extremely lucky and very grateful to have my health back.