In December 2021 I was diagnosed with Stage 3 bowel cancer. I was 40 at the time.
The only symptom I experienced was very mild and sporadic blood in my stools. Everything else including my blood work and general health was “normal”. In fact, I was regarded as a young and very healthy woman. The specialists decided a “precautionary” colonoscopy was needed. I was woken in recovery to be told they’d found a large suspicious tumour in my bowel, seemingly grown undetected over several years.
My gut-feel and general diligence for my health in booking a GP appointment is (what I hope), saved my life.
My medical teams advice was to “go hard, right now” with a more invasive treatment plan of intravenous chemo, 25 rounds of radiation, surgery and a further 6 rounds of chemo for future proofing. The strategy here being as my daughter so aptly put it, to “kick cancer in the butt once and for all”.
It was the longest and hardest year of my life but having now finished treatment and with “no evidence detected” of the cancer, I’ve emerged stronger mentally and forever grateful my body sent me the signals to act on. Tragically, I know others aren’t as fortunate. The treatment side effects were brutal but so worth it.
I share my story to raise much needed awareness around young onset bowel cancer, particularly for young mums. Too often I hear mums reporting symptoms consistent with bowel cancer only to get dismissed or told they’re simply legacy symptoms of child birth.
So please…. get your bits and bobs checked! No shame, embarrassment OR complacency. It may save your life, I’m hoping it has saved mine.
The incidence of young onset bowel cancer is scarily increasing and not enough is being done about this. Early detection is critical but with the screening age starting at 50, perception remains that bowel cancer is an “older person’s” disease. The screening age must be reduced, as well as greater research into why the incidence is increasing. More awareness is also crucial.