At 28, I had been married 2 years and had 2 boys, ages 10 and 16 months old, when my life changed forever.
I had been painfully tired for some time. My youngest son was in and out of hospital monthly from the age of 11 months. I figured I was just a tired Mum with a sick baby.
In mid-2009, I began noticing a dull ache in my lower left abdomen. I didn't think too much about it, as it came and went. It was only after I noticed how painful sitting my son on my hip had become that I started seeing my GP for answers.
I had the typical bloods and ultrasounds that are run for these types of pains in females, yet none yielded any answers.
I noticed I was bloating, and I became quite flatulent. I continued to follow up with my GP over a 6-month period and his diagnosis was IBS. I heeded his advice but still found no relief.
My symptoms were getting worse and I was living on pain relief daily.
My father had been diagnosed with bowel cancer two years earlier. My GP was aware of his diagnosis and treatment but when I asked about whether I should have some surveillance he didn't think it was necessary.
I was getting desperate. The pain was ruling every second of every day. All this while I was caring for a sick, undiagnosed child.
Again, I asked for a referral to a GI and finally he believed it might be worth looking into.
Three weeks later I met a GI specialist. She didn't seem too concerned but agreed a colonoscopy would be a good idea. Three weeks later, I lay praying in pre-op. I didn’t care how bad it was, I just wanted answers.
The procedure was quite quick. When I awoke, nurses fussed over me and it wasn't long before my GI specialist popped in.
Softly, with a determined tone, she delivered the diagnosis, while sweetly grasping my hand.
"We found a mass. It was large enough that we couldn't complete the scope due to its low position in your colon.”
“We have taken a biopsy and you need a CT right now."
So off I went. I was to follow up in her clinic 6 days later for results.
I was 28!
I had a young family.
My whole life was ahead of me.
Now I have MASS!!!
I cried the entire following day.
My heart ached at the thought of not seeing my children grow up, my husband having to bury me.
It was undoubtedly the worst day I have ever had.
Two days after my colonoscopy I received a call from my GP at 9am.
He delivered the news.
It was malignant.
I burst into tears.
He gave me a whole heap of info and told me to call the surgeon my dad had been to 2 years earlier. The following day I was in his office filling out paperwork for surgery and discussing what was next.
This was the point that changed me forever. I have always had a fighting spirit. But this was a whole new fight. This was not going to kill me.
Three weeks later I underwent a hemicoloctomy.
Surgery went well and I was home 5 days later.
Unfortunately, 2 days later I woke with a "funny" tummy. I took a visit to the bathroom in which a fire ripped through my belly like I've never felt before or again.
I was whisked via ambulance to ED, multiple tests later I was back up in surgery as I had a small bowel leak.
I came out with a new accessory, a colostomy bag, which I endured for 6 months. Once again, I had another complication after that surgery and ended up back in hospital after returning home with a partially collapsed left lung and Pneumonia.
Ironically, I had my cancer removed on June 1st 2010, the first day of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.
Subsequently I was diagnosed with Lynch Syndrome (Non-Polyposis Hereditary Colon Cancer), which is common in bowel cancer sufferers diagnosed at young ages.
I now receive a yearly surveillance colonoscopy (I'm up to 12 now); Gastroscope every 2 years; CT's and bloods regularly; Urinalysis, and the latest surgery; and a full hysterectomy due to the link of Lynch Syndrome and Ovarian/endometrial cancers.
Since my diagnosis and treatment (I did not receive chemo or radiation due to the hereditary link) I have taken control of my health.
I eat well, cut out a lot of highly processed foods, drink mostly water, don't drink much alcohol, exercise very regularly and try keep stress levels down.
I still have trouble with the adhesions left by all my surgery. I suffer terrible pain attacks but don't let them dictate my life.
I am watching my boys grow (now 19 and 11) and an additional son miraculously entered the world in 2015.
My experience has made me who I am today.
I share my story whenever I can to raise awareness that bowel cancer isn't just for the older generations. It is prevalent in people in their 30's and even like me, in their 20's.
I believe we go through things for a reason.
I am now studying to be a Nurse.
I've been a Volunteer Ambulance Officer for the past 4 years in the Pilbara in WA and love and appreciate life more now than ever.
My advice. Know your body.
I knew something wasn't right and had to push my doctors. If I hadn't, I would not be here today.
Don't be scared. We live in a time where we have the best treatment options and survival rates.
If you have a family history, you are at risk. Please, don't bury your head in the sand.
Knowledge is Power.
And finally, colonoscopy prep isn't that bad. Compared to cancer, its actually quite sweet.