I was 38 years old when I was given the diagnosis of Stage 3 bowel cancer on November 4th, 2019.
My life was about to change again....
You see I NEVER thought I would be diagnosed with cancer again in my lifetime.
At the age of 21 I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease and endured six months of chemo and six weeks of radiation.
Since then I changed my life and had been at my healthiest. I was at the gym six days a week, Yoga once a week and had a pretty healthy diet.
So, when I started experiencing severe bloating at the end of 2018, I put it down to "too much bread or carbs".
The bloating went on for about a year on and off. I went to the local GP and a scan was arranged for my ovaries which came back clear, so again I just assumed it was my diet.
Bowel cancer was never even thought of. That was meant to be only for “old people”.
It was only when my daughter’s 18th birthday came around in October 2019 that I started to experience very severe abdominal pain. The pain was coming and going but was so severe I couldn't walk so I went to the GP to try and get something to get me through the big party we had planned.
I was sent straight to emergency and advised I could have Diverticulitis. After six hours in the emergency room I was finally seen and blood tests were taken.
I was examined by two doctors. They both told me my bloods showed a SLIGHT infection, so I probably had a virus. They suggested I go home and take some Panadol.
I asked both doctors if I should have a scan and was advised it was not necessary and to go home and enjoy my daughter’s party.
I tried my best to get through the party but over the weekend the pain got worse. Monday morning, I went back to my GP and insisted on a scan.
This is when the tumour was found. From there things moved pretty fast and it was very overwhelming.
I was admitted to hospital for a colonoscopy and CT scan to biopsy the tumour. At this time I was still hoping the tumour was benign, but In the back of my mind I had a very bad feeling.
My worst fears came true when I was advised the tumour was cancerous and so large they could not complete the colonoscopy as they could not get past the tumour.
I was then booked for surgery to remove the tumour. This all happened within a matter of days which I was very thankful for. It was a waiting game in hospital to get the results back and it felt like FOREVA.
I was STILL holding onto the hope it wasn't cancerous. However, a few days after the surgery it was confirmed I had Stage 3 bowel cancer, and 5 lymph nodes out of the 22 that were removed were found to be cancerous.
So six months of chemo was recommended to ensure there were no other cancerous cells left....this was a real blow. I didn't want to have to go thru chemo again. My oldest daughter was about to start year 12 exams and needed my support. My youngest was too young to watch me go thru this!!
I had six weeks to recover after the surgery before my treatment was to begin.
I was first fitted with a PORT so the chemo could be fed thru the port as one of the drugs prescribed for treatment had a 46-hour delivery time.
I had to carry around a little "baby bottle" for two days at home and then the nurses would come to my house to disconnect me. At first I hated the idea of the port, but in the long run it was very convenient as it meant the nurses did not have to try and find a good vein every fortnight when I went in for chemo.
I started Chemo in December 2019 and spent NYE 2019 at home having chemo.
I won’t lie. It was tough. I experienced some hair loss, tingling in the fingers and toes, severe jaw pain, extreme fatigue and nausea and on top of that put ON weight. It has been a real roller coaster of a ride. I would start to feel a little normal again before my next treatment and then would be knocked back down again.
We were then hit with COVID 19 so there were no more visits from my extended family who were stopping in to check on me and giving us meals and on my "good days" I could no longer leave the house to get a coffee or have brunch with my family.
My girls and husband and family were like rocks during my treatment and I am so grateful for their support. They were so very helpful.
I know it would have been very hard for them to see me so sick, especially during "lock down" as they were home all the time. They could see the full effects it had on me.
When they were at school and Uni, they would come home from school and see me tired and go to bed but during "lock down" they saw it all.
I DID get through it though. Six months have passed. I finished my last round a few weeks ago and I am now waiting on my CT scan to ensure it all went well.
I do still have some lingering side effects such as fatigue and tingling in my toes, but can deal with it better knowing treatment IS OVER :)
A positive frame of mind and practicing mindfulness really helped get me thru. Walking (when I could) was also great even though I couldn't go far or fast, and gentle yoga, stretching and staying as active as possible made me feel "normal" and "refreshed" during my "good week".
I’m hoping my story will help others get thru their diagnosis as it helped me.
If I can offer any advice it is to always follow your gut instincts and listen to your body.
Insist on getting checked out if anything seems out of the ordinary even if it is only something mild.
Bowel Cancer IS NOT an "old person’s" disease as many may think and can strike anyone as I have learnt during this time.