About a year ago at age 45, I started to notice pain in my left abdomen.
I initially put this down to kidney stone pain as I had experienced a kidney stone on this side 5 years ago. After a few months I decided to see my GP about the pain and was sent for abdominal and renal ultrasounds.
When these came back clear my GP decided to be safe and send me for an abdominal CT. The next day I received a call from my GP requesting to see me straight away.
This automatically got me thinking the worst, so I was already prepared when he told me that there was a thickening in my bowel which was most likely cancer. I was then referred to a surgeon to investigate further.
The next day I received a call from the surgeon asking me to head into the hospital for a flexi sigmoidoscopy. Due to not having the time to prepare my bowel properly the Flexi sig was unable to reach far enough to determine the cause of the thickening.
A week later I received a proper colonoscopy and was given the grim news by my surgeon that I had a large tumour, which was almost completely blocking my bowel at the splenic flexure.
The following days were the darkest I have experienced, and I started imagining all the things I would most likely not be here for (my teenage children growing up, graduations and weddings, not being there to walk my daughter down the aisle etc).
After another CT and together with the biopsy results from the colonoscopy I was told the good and bad news; I did in fact have cancer however there was no evidence of it having spread from the bowel.
Having been prepared to hear the worst this was very unexpected but very welcome news, and I was now on an emotional high, talk about a roller coaster ride!
Another week later and I was back in surgery, this time to have the tumour removed via a hemicolectomy. After 3 nights in hospital my surgeon was happy with my progress and sent me home.
A couple days later I received the news that although the surgery went well, cancer was found in 3 of the 16 lymph nodes they had removed, and I would therefore be referred to an oncologist.
The oncologist prescribed me 12 rounds of Folfox 6 chemotherapy. In a strange kind of way, I welcomed this news as I saw the chemotherapy as a form of insurance to help prevent the cancer returning.
After 6 weeks of recovering from the surgery, I started my first round of chemo. My schedule consisted of approx. 4 hours in the day oncology unit receiving a number of Oxaliplatin, Leucovorin and Fluorouracil intravenously via my portacath.
At completion, I was connected up to a portable pump which would continue to deliver Fluorouracil over the following 2 days. This would become my new normal every 2 weeks for the next 6 months.
The chemotherapy started off very manageable with the only significant side effects being sensitivity to cold temperatures on my fingers and in my mouth for the first 48 hours of treatment; fatigue set in on the weekend after treatment, as well as bone pain from the G-CSF injection I was receiving to promote white blood cell production.
After about 6 rounds the cold sensitivity started to settle down but was replaced by numbness in my fingers and toes. Originally this only lasted for a few days but gradually increased to where it was, and still is there continuously.
After my last round of chemo, I had mixed emotions. On one hand I was relieved to no longer having to be going through this, but on the other I found a sense of comfort in the regularity of my fortnightly visits to the oncology ward.
A month later I underwent for a follow up Colonoscopy and CT scan, both of which have come back clear, and today I received word that I am officially in remission.
I will have a follow up with the oncologist in 3 months - it’s reassuring to know that I will still be monitored for any reoccurrence.