Where do I begin? I was diagnosed with Stage 3C Bowel Cancer in September 2016, I was 34 years old, a Mum to 3 beautiful girls, a wife and also working full time!
Writing or talking about this part of my life doesn’t get any easier but I know by talking about it I may just help one person out there stop and think and get themselves checked because you are Never Too Young!
I felt reasonably well apart from the odd tiredness and stomach cramps that I just put down to a tummy bug and being a busy mum of 3 and working full time.
I went to the doctor one day as the stomach cramps just weren't going away. I had stomach cramps which I thought at first was food poisoning, I’m talking intense stomach cramps.
They decided to do blood tests.
I went home after the blood tests, but that night I received a call from my GP that I needed to get to the hospital urgently as my blood levels were very low!
In fact, I only had half the amount of blood trying to run my system than a normal adult – no wonder I was tired!
Of course they did an ultrasound but thought it may have been my appendix as they said they were inflamed.. They asked questions while I was at the hospital, if there was any unusual bleeding I had noticed but nothing was out of the ordinary.
I never experienced bleeding from my bowels or anything like that to send any alarms that there was something serious going on!
While in hospital I received 2 units of blood and 2 iron infusions as well.
They were going to send me for a colonoscopy for further testing but unfortunately while in hospital, I came down with Influenza A.
As a result, I was put into isolation and never got to do the colonoscopy while in hospital!
They sent me home after 2 weeks in hospital and I was to do the colonoscopy outside the hospital as an outpatient.
Of course, I was on a waiting list. But as I had no warning signs apart from stomach cramps I wasn’t concerned about waiting.
I finally got the call to go in and have the colonoscoy done at the end of August 2016.
It was a day I'll never forget!
My husband dropped me off in the morning as he had to take the kids to school and pick them up before coming back to get me.
I had the test done and was waiting to see the specialist before I was allowed to leave, sitting in a room with other patients.
My husband and my girls were in the room with me listening to the specialist tell the patients one by one that they were all good and could go home.
Then it was my turn.
The specialist looked at me and my family and said, "Can I talk to you in here please?"
I knew it wasn't going to be good.
She said, "While doing the tests on you, we found a mass in your bowel, about 10cms."
I started to cry.
I knew this wasn't great, but still never thought cancer.
She went on to tell me other things, but in all honestly I have no idea what she was saying.
I zoned out.
How was I going to tell my husband, my girls, my family?
The specialist ended up calling my husband out and told him the news as well as there was no way I knew what to say, I was numb as it’s never news you expect to hear at any age let alone 34!
We made an appointment with her to follow up on the following Wednesday.
My Dad came down and we went to the appointment together.
My husband, my dad and I all sat in the waiting room waiting for my name to be called, it felt like the longest wait.
Finally she called my name, said a few things and basically explained that she wasn’t 100% certain, but was pretty sure it wasn’t good news.
She explained that no matter what it was, the mass needed to come out.
My dad and hubby asked lots of questions, but I can't remember what was being said.
All I remember thinking was that I didn’t want to have a bag.
‘I’m 34 years old; I’m not having a bag,’ I thought to myself.
We booked in to see the surgeon the following Wednesday, but my specialist explained that if I wasn't feeling right or the pain got worse I should go straight to the hospital.
Well what would you know, but things did get worse!
I ended up vomiting so much I couldn't even keep water down. My husband wanted to take me to hospital but I just thought they would put my on fluids and then send me home as I was seeing the specialist about the mass that was found on the Wednesday!
Of course he didn’t take no for an answer and ended up talking me to hospital, along with my dad and my girls.
I ended up staying in the hospital Sunday night, They did a CT scan and was I operated on as an emergency patient first thing the next morning.
It was so early and I remember feeling so alone.
My husband and Mum were on their way to the hospital but didn't make it to see me before I went in.
The lovely nurse that took me down could see I was really scared and she was just beautiful and kept me calm. I was so scared, I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been so scared or felt so alone in my life, it was so daunting as it happened so fast! The nurse was amazing, I honestly have so much respect for our nurses!
The surgeon came in to see me before I went under, Asked if I wanted to have key hole surgery to remove the mass, He explained that he may end up having to do a big cut down my stomach anyways, So I opted straight for the big cut, I thought to myself - it’s a 10cm mass, There is no way it’s coming out of a little cut!
The surgery took a long time.
I remember coming out and my whole family was waiting for me - my husband, my girls, Mum, Dad, my brother and my sister-in-law.
They all looked relieved to finally see me.
I still wasn't very well and was still vomiting.
I was also quite sore from the surgery and very, very groggy!
I was on some serious pain relief medication but over the next few days I was able to move wards and was back on my feet, but that took some doing, as I was in a fair bit of pain (32 staples of pain).
Mum had to help me shower, it’s been awhile since my mother has helped me shower! Haha! I can look back at it now and laugh!
On the Friday after my surgery, I had the surgeon team come in and see me.
They had some news - tests came back and unfortunately they came back as cancer - the dreaded C word - stage 3 bowel cancer!
I took the news well. My thought process was - It WAS cancer, The cancer itself is gone.. they got it!
I was alone when they told me.
Again lots of words were spoken.
They would send more teams to see me and talk to me about what the next steps would be.
I wasn't sure how to break it to family members.
I sent them a text message. . . yes, a text message.
I didn't know how to tell them.
God knows how they felt receiving that news via text message, but I honestly didn't know how to break it to them.
In the coming days I saw more medical teams and was told I would need 6 months of chemo treatment.
Thankfully they got all the cancer and it only got to 1 out of 21 lymph glands so I was lucky.
The chemo would be more of a precaution.
I met with my oncologist who is just amazing and has made me feel at ease from day 1.
I had my port fitted in my chest on the Friday of my second week in hospital and I went home on the Saturday.
It was a very long and scary 2 weeks in hospital, but the staff and all the teams were just amazing - just brilliant at their jobs!
I needed time to recover from my surgery before I could start my chemo treatment, so I waited for a month before I began.
Once I started, it went in every fortnight for 6 months.
Six months doesn't seem like a long time, but trust me, when I heard 6 months of treatment, it sounded like and felt like 60 years.
I was connected and in hospital for a minimum of 4 hours on day 1, would then go home connected with my chemo in a bottle and then disconnect on the 3rd day.
Chemo was hard.
My hair thinned out big time - I remember being in the shower thinking, ‘they lied to me.. they told me I wouldn't lose my hair!’
They didn't lie though.
I didn't lose all of my hair, it just thinned out! (A LOT)
Thankfully, I have now finished my chemo treatment and I’m about to have my 2 years post surgery colonoscopy! I’m hoping after this one they will suggest it happen every second year!
I still suffer legs cramps and I still have the numbness in my hands and legs, but my hair is growing nicely and I am still here.
I am still smiling.
If I can tell you one thing, it's to be as positive as you can be throughout everything life throws at you.
Yes, it's hard!
It's damn hard, My life has changed forever and it will never be the same but I’m still here, I’m still here to share my story in the hope that it helps someone, anyone! If you notice any changes, any changes at all or have severe stomach cramps that go on for more than a day, don’t wait.. do something about it and don’t stop asking questions till you get some answers!!
I hope if you are reading this story that you find something in my story to help you.
Every story is different as with every treatment.
It's a hard road we each travel.
We need to make the most of every minute we are here.
Smile more, laugh more and love more.
It’s exactly what I have done!! I’m now living where I’ve always wanted to live, I visit the beach daily, I’m working part time, spending time and making memories with my 3 beautiful girls!
Living my best life post cancer treatment!