2018 changed our lives forever. This is when bowel cancer entered our world.
In January 2018 my identical twin sister (29 years of age that year) Christina was experiencing pain in her stomach all day. When I arrived home she advised she was still experiencing pain and we made her attend the Hospital thinking perhaps it was her appendix.
They did an ultrasound and couldn’t see anything but fluid, they questioned ‘colitis’ and said perhaps a cyst burst, although there was no other present. They sent her home and advised if pain persists to then come back.
When the pain became worse in February she went to her GP who looked at her ultrasounds, ordered bloods and stools and called rapid access to order a colonoscopy to query if she perhaps has crohns. (never suspecting bowel cancer)
Bloods came back and doctor asked her to go on iron tablets as she was iron deficient, anaemic.
As she awaited her scopes which weren’t booked in until April she was still sick; vomiting nearly every weekend, cramping etc. in a lot of pain, she then ended up in hospital again after vomiting blood 30th March (week before scopes) as she was due back in a week they discharged her with some medication for pain and bloating.
The day of her preparation for her scopes (cleanse day) she started vomiting and the cleanse was not working. She ended up in hospital again in emergency at 2am still vomiting which we later found out was caused due to the blockage from the tumour which was leaving only a small ml for anything to get down.
When she had her scopes the tumour was found and it was said to be cancerous (later testing confirmed) Surgery was then booked in to remove the tumour (and a temporary stoma was given). They then confirmed the Cancer is Stage 4 & has spread to her pelvic area including her ovaries/uterus.
She was recommended to have a large surgery In Sydney (Peritoneal HIPEC) in Sydney in September 2018.
In the interim prior to this surgery;
She received chemo tablets & infusion chemotherapy. During Chemotherapy Christina did experience some side effects, largely neuropathy, ‘first bite’ pain experienced with eating and drinking certain food / fluids, feeling the cold with some pain associated & nausea.
As a distraction I decided to join Dry July and raise funds for the Hospital where she was having her Chemotherapy. We managed to raise nearly $10,000 with Dry July then matching my donations and them receiving a further grant. We sold multiple boxes of Bowel Cancer Ribbons as well & plan to hopefully hold a Ball for Bowel Cancer next year.
Christinas HIPEC surgery was ‘successful’ with the doctors believing they have removed all the cancer. Unfortunately they had to remove her reproductive organs during the surgery, but were also able to reverse the Stoma.
The battle continued thereafter. Endless tests, Chemotherapy, major surgeries. The hospital felt like a second home sometimes.
We used the ‘shit’ time in our lives as a chance to bring much needed awareness to bowel cancer in the younger generations. Bowel cancer, stool tests, ‘number twos’ is such a taboo topic in a lot of generations but mainly the younger, and especially males. Statistics show the diagnosed cases of bowel cancer is young people is an the rise and if caught early it is treatable.
However, that said, due to the amount of causes that are not caught in time, bowel cancer is the second highest cancer killer in Australia. – so it needs much more awareness.
Anyone experiencing any stomach issues please go see a doctor, and if you are unhappy with the comments or results you receive, please don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion or get a colonoscopy referral. We also would love if younger generations could ban together and remind their parents and loved ones over the age of 45 to do their stool tests / get a colonoscopy. It could seriously save a life!
Obviously being an identical twin, with siblings we all too now have taken part & had our own tests to ensure none of us are too experiencing cancer growth.
Christina was just like you and me, healthy, fun going, energetic and one of the hardest workers you would ever meet. No real symptoms or cause for concern.
No one expected what would be found. You don’t expect to hear the words “you have cancer” at the age of 29.
Unfortunately Christina ran out of time to fight, and grew her angel wings at the young age of 30.
However, not all stories end this way. Bowel cancer can be beat. It is not an “old man’s disease”, it can affect people like you and me. It needs a lot more awareness and doctors need to stop dismissing the younger generation.
Together we can raise this awareness.