Hello, my name is Adam. I'm 37 and I have Stage 4 bowel cancer. Here's my story... so far.
I was diagnosed in January 2021 after initially presenting to my local doctor with a general feeling of tiredness. For a few months leading up to this I had assumed that I was tired because of the joy of 2020 - living through a few lockdowns in Melbourne and doing a whole lot of work and not a lot of play.
But it was the Christmas / New Year holidays, and I was still tired. Then I started getting chest pains and had trouble breathing. So, I was sent to hospital - but a couple of blood transfusions and iron infusions later - I was discharged. ‘Make sure you go home and eat a nice big steak - get your iron up!’ I was told. And so, I did.
But things didn't feel right still. Sure, the chest pains and breathing issues had subsided but I still had a general feeling of fatigue and stomach cramps had started to become more frequent. A family friend, also a GP, recommended I go back to my GP and request a specific set of blood tests designed to eliminate anything else these feelings might be.
The results came back a little scary. A CT scan was then booked in and revealed something mysterious. While I was laying on the table I was asked if I had any pains in my right side. I didn’t - I had started to develop random pains mainly in my stomach and in my lower back. The CT scan led to a colonoscopy and gastroscopy being booked in.
Both tests confirmed what I had started to expect I was going to hear. ‘It's a tumour - about the size of a birds egg - and I suspect it's cancerous’ - the specialist told me.
Fast forward to a few weeks later and I'm sitting in a hospital bed after just having had major surgery - a right hemicolectomy. The surgery ended up resulting in removing more than they had initially planned. Cancer had spread to my lymph nodes around the area too. It all had to go. I’m glad the surgeon took no prisoners.
As I write this, I’m on Round Six of what’s initially expected to be eight rounds of chemotherapy - I’m on a mix of IV injections and tablets (86 of the buggers every two weeks) and it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster. I’ll have to wait till the end of my current chemo plan to find out if I’ll need to progress on to a clinical trial - I have faith in my medical team that they’ll advise me on what to do next.
I'm not sure what the rest of my journey has in store for me - but it’s been an interesting ride to say the least. Through my initiative, the FCK CNCR shop I’ve (virtually) met hundreds of others going through similar cancers - and all of the feelings associated with it. It’s been enlightening, interesting and sometimes emotional, but it’s been great to be able to connect with others and know that we’re not alone in this journey.
Knowing what I’ve been through now, I would say to any young person out there to not ignore any of the symptoms - even if you think they might be nothing it’s worth checking. I realise now that I had felt tired for months and although I didn’t have any of the other major symptoms commonly associated with bowel cancer, I now realise that there were times and other signs that I realised something wasn’t entirely right.
I would also say that it’s okay not to be okay. If it makes you feel better, talk about it. Talk to your family, your friends, to a stranger, whatever makes you feel good. You do not need to go through this alone.