This story relates to a diagnosis of serrated polyposis syndrome and the removal of 24 polyps upon the first colonoscopy.
I'd always experienced problems with my digestion and stomach but in late 2022 these became ongoing and started to impact my daily life. We have a family history of bowel cancer which sat strongly in the back of my mind.
Prior to diagnosis, I was having problems every so often but in October 2022 they arrived and didn't disappear as they usually had. After eating, I was suffering from pain in my bowel area but had not changed my diet. It hurt to go to the bathroom if I was able to go at all and there was occasionally blood present. My movements were incomplete, and I did not feel like I had emptied my bowel fully. I was also experiencing terrible trapped gas, pain and bloating and nothing was able to provide relief. I ended up feeling miserable, and low in energy, I was avoiding eating out in fear it would set me off.
I had ordered a bowel test kit from Bowel Cancer Australia but was unable to use this due to current symptoms.
In March 2023 with strong encouragement from my partner and mum, I visited the GP. My initial experience with the GP could have been more positive. It was suggested I waited for symptoms to dissipate and then complete the bowel testing kit. I went back to the same GP six weeks later as my symptoms stopped me from attending work that day. At that appointment, I requested a referral for a colonoscopy again, stating that the worry was impacting my mental health.
They agreed and referred me but thought the result would be more along the lines of IBS. I was unable to complete the bowel testing kit due to occasional bleeding. I wanted some answers, I was feeling really unwell.
So, I am currently early in my diagnosis journey, but I have been diagnosed with serrated polyposis syndrome and will require stringent screening to remove polyps or the rest of my life. My sister and mum will also require screening.
I have had a colonoscopy and have been scheduled for another one in October this year. Been referred for a CT scan and some further blood tests to investigate the area some more. After these are complete, I will be referred to a genetic counsellor with my mother and sister so they can undergo testing as well. I'm lucky to have an amazing specialist who spent time with me explaining the diagnosis and how we would manage it together.
I've chosen to share this story because I was not expecting this outcome for myself at this age. Bowel cancer is rising in young Australians, and we need to get the word out there more and push to lower the screening age.
At the moment I'm feeling so much better, my energy is back, the pains are gone and I can eat without pain. I have a long road ahead with stringent monitoring and appointments but I'm glad I advocated for myself; I knew something was wrong.
You know your body; you live in it every day. You also might know your family history. If something feels not right and it continues or keeps coming back advocate for yourself in the medical system and push for tests. Arm yourself with the facts of bowel cancer in young Australians and request the test even if you have asked before.
My symptoms were a slow progression, they came and they went numerous times over a few years until they came and did not go away. It is hard to notice the subtlety sometimes in a busy life. One of my main kickers, coupled with the above symptoms, I stopped going to the bathroom in the morning and that never returned.