In 2019, my husband and I were thinking about returning to the USA.

We had been before in 2013 and I had experienced some embarrassing bowel issues at the time. I thought it was the food (or the alcohol).

When we came back, I continued to experience intermittent issues, especially when I exercised.

We went to Melbourne in 2014 and 2016, and both times I experienced embarrassing episodes of looseness.

I had occasionally found blood on the toilet tissue when I wiped.

In 2018, in Saint George, QLD, my husband and I had a big night. The next morning, I had bright red blood when I wiped.

I never had blood in the toilet bowl, and never had dark blood.

I had always had low iron levels, which doctor after doctor attributed to my heavy periods.

In February 2019, I went to seem my doctor about my tinea on my foot. He recommended some cream and wrote me a prescription for my reflux tablets.

As I walked out, I made a decision that likely saved my life.

I went back and mentioned to my doctor that I had experienced some funny bowel movements and noticed a bit of blood on the toilet paper.

He gave me a FOBT, and a stool sample test. I waited until my Easter holidays to take them.

Both came back positive. He was the first of many to reassure me that cancer was highly unlikely.

He said a colonoscopy would be 18 months away. I mentioned my private health insurance, and within minutes I was booked in for June.

In the meantime, I broke my left arm badly, and thought I might cancel the colonoscopy. But then I remembered the embarrassment I had felt on my first trip and hoped that I might avoid it this time around.

June rolled around, and I got a letter about the prep. I met with the specialist beforehand. He talked about the possibility of Crohn’s or colitis. He was definite that cancer was virtually impossible.

I did my prep. It was awful. Worse than the procedure itself. I awoke to a nurse telling me to eat a cookie and that I was lucky they caught it early.

The doctor came around and told me that they removed 3 precancerous polyps, one of which was very concerning. He reassured me that, given my history, cancer wasn’t a big possibility. He told me they’d sent it off for testing.

Wednesday I was at school. Luckily, my husband had Wednesdays off at that time. Sometimes the universe lines up. I got a phone call from my doctor. The results came back, and it was cancer.

I couldn’t move. I called my husband. He picked me up from work and took me to get a CT scan which came back clear. We got a referral to another doctor.

I had a high anterior resection in late June. I was lucky. The cancer hadn’t spread to any lymph nodes, so I didn’t need chemo or radiation.

But I wish, with all my heart, that I had sought help with the first weird bowel movements because I might still have my whole bowel.

I wish someone had told me about how bowel cancer is the fastest rising cancer in young people. I wish I hadn’t been so embarrassed. And I am eternally grateful for my GP for taking me seriously.

So please, go get checked. No matter what. It might save your life.