Just over a year ago I received a dreaded diagnosis of stage 3 rectal cancer at the 'young' age of 35.
It all began in November 2015 with the passing of a small amount of blood in my stool which lasted a week during a very stressful work period. Over the following 10 months I had intermittent recurrences which coincided with a bad cough. It was initially thought to be hemorrhoids, however after a second trip to the GP he wanted to be safe & referred me to a Gastroenterologist who also thought that it was nothing sinister but an optional colonoscopy was put forward in November 2016.
Two weeks later as I awoke for the procedure, an ashen faced doctor told me the the life altering news that I had cancer. My first thoughts were I wouldn't see my 3 year old daughter grow up or have the chance to marry my fiance. I was lucky enough to have access to private health & within 2 weeks I had seen a colorectal surgeon, oncologist & had a port-a-cath put in my chest. At the start of December my treatment journey began.
My initial treatment was 6 weeks of continuous chemotherapy & radiation 5 days a week, which put me in hospital between Boxing Day & New Years. A 10 week break followed to allow time to heal post surgery. At the end of March my surgeon performed an 'ultra low anterior resection' which is basically having the majority of the rectum removed & a new one called a 'j pouch' created from the large bowel. An ileostomy bag was part of the procedure to allow time for the new plumbing to heal. Being 35 & having a bag stuck to my stomach to poop into took some getting used to but in the scheme of things I'm grateful it was only temporary. I was also given the reassuring news that the earlier treatment had shrunk the tumour significantly & the operation was considered curative with no lymph nodes being positive.
I began 6 months adjuvant chemotherapy in May & had successful ileostomy reversal surgery in July. The new plumbing took some getting used to but I've now settled into the new normal which isn't to dissimilar to pre cancer.
I'd be lying if I said the 6 months chemotherapy was easy. It basically was like being given the flu every fortnight along with the nasty side effect of peripheral neuropathy which is nerve damage to the hands & feet causing extreme cold sensitivity & pins & needles.
I'm now 6 weeks out from my last treatment & considered to be in remission (a word I loathe using as it feels a bit glass half empty). Fatigue hits pretty hard by the end of the day & my hands & feet still feel numb but starting to improve each day. I am eternally grateful to the wonderful medical team who helped me beat this & last but not least my fiance who endured the fear, sadness, anger & every emotion in between that comes with caring for your loved one battling cancer.
I am one of the lucky ones who made it out of this journey however many more aren't so fortunate. Early detection is key. Bowel Cancer doesn't discriminate & I am proof that you are never to young. If you are concerned, go & get a check up!
Decembeard brings awareness & raises funds to help beat bowel cancer whilst growing some great facial fuzz. I've recruited a bunch of handsome colleagues from BDA Architecture to help bring awareness & raise money for this wonderful cause. Hopefully one day this disease will be a thing of the past.