It’s been just over seven months since I heard the words "You have cancer.” I had just turned 32, my baby was 9 weeks old, and I was desperately just trying to soak up every minute of the newborn phase. Instead, I spent nearly every waking minute in absolute agony and constantly at the Doctor’s looking for answers to my pain.
I first started experiencing pain at around 20 weeks pregnant, and I had all the symptoms of bowel cancer - pain and cramping, alternating constipation and diarrhoea, blood and mucous in stools, thin snake like stools, and anaemia. However, as these symptoms are also very similar to pregnancy no further investigations were considered.
Finally, after months of being told my pain was normal for pregnancy/post-partum and given band aid fixes such as movicol, coloxyl, and iron tablets, I was sent for tests which picked up a large mass in my colon. Initially, I was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer but thankfully it was later downgraded to stage 3.
I have spent my maternity leave having multiple surgeries, countless specialist appointments and starting chemotherapy. I have also been advised to have a full hysterectomy after treatment to lower my chances of further cancers due to my genetic testing showing Lynch syndrome.
Receiving a cancer diagnosis has completely changed and flipped my life. All my future goals and plans are either on hold or cancelled. I am in a constant state of limbo and everything revolves around treatment and the endless medical appointments. But I also have a new appreciation for the little things and how fragile life truly is.
I have lived a life of healthy eating, actively exercising, never smoking and rarely drinking alcohol. Cancer doesn't care how young or healthy you are. It can happen to anyone, at any age.
Y advice to others reading this would be to make the uncomfortable or annoying doctor’s appointment, as an hour out of your day sure beats the endless medical appointments, scans, and tests that come with a cancer diagnosis.
Listen to your body, push for answers from doctors, get second opinions, if need be. But advocate for your health and listen to your gut feeling, it’s rarely ever wrong.