At the age 40 my iron was low, and I just put it down to becoming a vegetarian. The thought never crossed my mind until blood was found in my stool sample. From there it was a bit of a blur. I woke from a colonoscopy being told a lot of polyps were removed and there is a malignant looking tumour in the rectum.
I was booked for scans and had referrals to specialists. The GP rang to get the pathology results while I waited, and it was confirmed as cancer.
Within about a week I was preparing for major surgery the day before my oldest son’s 10th birthday. I was to have a temporary "poo bag" which was extremely scary for me to even contemplate. I woke from surgery in a lot of pain with staples from my belly button down and 2 bags attached to me. I didn't want to move due to the pain. I remember my husband and boys coming in to see me and it was very confronting for them all.
So, the tumour was removed and 30cm of colon and 18 lymph nodes. Beforehand I was led to believe chemo would most likely not be needed. However, there were cancer cells in some of the lymph nodes, so chemo was needed.
Once I recovered from surgery I was preparing for chemo or as I call it poison. I knew it was what needed to happen for my best chance of cancer not returning but I was not looking forward to it. I was put on a 3-week cycle of chemo starting with IV then 2 weeks of tablets twice a day, with a week to recover before it started again. I was to have 8 rounds of this. I managed to work the whole way through chemo but as it was from home had a chance to have a little lunchtime nap.
I remember the night after the first IV having a drink of tap water and my mouth feeling paralysed. I remember my legs wouldn't work right and I couldn't touch anything cold. As the cycles went on, I felt more tired, couldn't stomach much food especially not healthy food. I was thankful for the "poo bag" due to the diarrhoea caused by the tablets. I got to the stage of not being able to keep any food in, I was tired and weak and after 6.5 rounds my Oncologist suggested my body was ready to finish chemo. The concern for me and still is, is that I haven't completed it all so the cancer still might come back.
After the chemo was finished my energy slowly returned, the feeling or lack thereof in my hands and feet worsened for a bit.
I was then booked to have the "poo bag" removed and that was another scary moment knowing that I was going to have to retrain my back end after not being in use for 6 months. It was a challenge but I got back to a new normal. Now, about 8 months on from finishing chemo I have the feeling back in my hands. I still can't feel my feet and my energy levels drop pretty quickly when life is busy, and I do too much.
I am grateful that I have been able to get on with life and am currently cancer free. There isn't a day that goes by without some sort of reminder of the journey I have been on and how lucky I am.
My family was amazing through the whole journey, the cancer didn't just affect me it was the whole family, and I am proud of how my young boys and husband dealt with it all.
I am sharing my story to raise awareness and if something doesn't seem right don't leave it ask questions and get it checked out.