Hi! My name is Kate, and I was diagnosed in September 2020 with stage 3 bowel cancer at the age of 35.
Once the tumour in my bowel was found, it was all systems go, and I was pulled in every direction.
Also, throw in a pandemic just to make the ride a little more turbulent.
I wanted to set the scene for you around my journey to give you a bit more of an insight.
A lot of women in my age bracket are thinking about fertility and having children, and so bowel cancer symptoms may get overlooked.
I had been doing IVF and infertility treatments for about 5 years leading up to my cancer diagnosis.
I also had a pregnancy loss, an embryo transfer, surgery for my endometriosis and a round of IVF treatment all in the same year before my bowel cancer diagnosis was confirmed.
I had been hospitalised with stomach pains and had mentioned the blood in my stool, fatigue, and cramps to multiple specialists. However due to all my other health concerns, the symptoms were put down to hormones and other issues surrounding endometriosis.
Deep down I knew something very serious was happening to me, however the thought of cancer never crossed my mind.
The blood in my stools were getting heavier, the cramps worse and I was becoming a bit scared to leave the house in case I soiled my pants.
Another symptom was chronic fatigue. I was sleeping about 14 hours or more a day and I was still tired, but my specialist put it down to depression when I mentioned it. I didn't feel depressed, just exhausted.
So, when I went to the GP on a totally separate issue than my bowel, I think it was just to get a referral, I thought I'd just mention to her what was happening with my bowel movements. I was a bit embarrassed and thought it was pretty crude to tell someone I just met about my terrible diarrhoea, but I took a deep breath and explained everything because I knew that I needed help.
She listened and assured me that it was not normal. The doctor noticed that I had private health insurance and asked me if I wanted to have a colonoscopy because it was covered, and I wouldn't have to pay for it.
I had no idea what a colonoscopy was, but I said yes. I said I would do whatever it takes to find out what is going on with me.
As well as a stool sample and a lot of blood tests I booked the colonoscopy. This was the first time I had been to this particular GP.
Because I was always around specialists and health professionals, I didn't even think to speak to a GP about this type of thing, but I am glad I did.
Before this all happened, I never had a GP to call my own. I would just go to the Bulk Bill clinic and take whichever female doctor was on duty that day. When I woke up from my colonoscopy, I remember the gastroenterologist telling me to go back and thank that GP because she saved my life! I believe him, I am very proud to now say that I have a GP to call my own.
Being a patient with private health insurance, I know that I received my colonoscopy in record time.
I was one of the lucky ones. I left the GP, called the gastroenterologist clinic, and was booked in the same week!
I literally started my prep diet the next day. Then after I woke up from the colonoscopy, I was told that I had cancer immediately. I believe the exact words were, "Kate, we found out what is wrong with you. You have cancer, you won't be going home just yet."
I was in disbelief and don't remember much about what happened after that moment, only the feeling of being in fight or flight mode and of course I knew I was ready to fight.
It scares me to think what would have happened to me if I was in the public system, as my stool sample kit came up with no evidence of cancer and my blood tests only showed that I was severely anaemic.
I would have been put to the back of a very long list because of my age.
Who knows how far advanced the cancer would have become if I was put on a wait list?
It pains me to think that a lot of younger patients getting diagnosed might not be as advanced in their cancer if they had the resources to have a colonoscopy procedure sooner.
Bowel cancer is killing more young people than ever, and I feel an obligation to speak up and raise much needed awareness surrounding this disease.
Exactly one year to the day of my chemotherapy treatment, my best friend in the whole world has also been diagnosed with bowel cancer.
Enough is enough, change needs to happen.
After having 30 cms of my bowel removed, 12 rounds of chemotherapy and all the other tests, treatments, and procedures in between, I am blessed to be able to share my story with you and let you know that I am officially ‘No Evidence of Disease’, known to the cancer world as NED.
Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I didn't even know what an oncologist was. I knew next to nothing about bowel cancer or the statistics of Australia’s second deadliest cancer.
All I want with my second chance at life is to spread as much information about this disease as I can.
I want to start the conversations about bowels, and I want to encourage you to speak up if you know something is not right with your body.
If sharing my story inspires one person to go and get a colonoscopy then I feel that everything I went through won't be for nothing.
Thank you for taking the time to learn and read a little about my cancer rollercoaster.