I first noticed bleeding from my bowels at the end of 2018. I had been a busy few months and I kept putting off going to the doctor.
Eventually after Christmas I went and got a referral for a colonoscopy. I booked in my colonoscopy and had to wait four weeks. A week before my colonoscopy I found out that I was pregnant with our third child. I called the endoscopy clinic and they told me unfortunately they were not able to give me the colonoscopy. I asked what I should do and they said to go see a Specialist.
So, I booked an appointment with the recommended gastroenterologist. I had to wait six weeks to get in. When I went there, I was told it was likely to be haemorrhoids and to come back in six weeks if it hadn’t stopped.
I was unhappy about this and I went to several private gastroenterologists. All of them told me it was probably haemorrhoids or colitis and that they couldn’t do anything for me while I was pregnant.
Eventually a friend’s brother who is a gastroenterologist took me seriously and got me in quickly for a flexible sigmoidoscopy. I went for that at 12 weeks pregnant. They were unable to go up too far and did not see anything. I left confused and frustrated.
My mum was very sick with cancer at this time and my brother was getting married. My mum went into ICU the day before his wedding and she was living interstate, so I spent five weeks with her before going back to Melbourne.
The bleeding continued, as did several other symptoms. A few weeks later I had to fly back to Brisbane to be with my mum again. Before returning to Melbourne I contacted my friend’s brother again to let him know that my symptoms were not getting better. I had more testing and my bowel cancer stool test came back with a very high reading. He then decided I needed another flexible sigmoidoscopy.
By this time, I was 24 weeks pregnant. I went in to get it done and being wide awake during the procedure I saw when the tumour was found. It was big and nasty looking. It looked evil. I knew right away what it was.
The next few weeks I was getting tests and x-rays and MRIs and my husband and I had to make some tough decisions. The oncologist wanted me to stay pregnant and have chemo, the surgeon wanted to operate ASAP and the obstetricians wanted me to keep the baby in as long as I could.
In the end we decided to have our baby delivered via caesarean at 30 weeks. It seemed like the most rational choice. Our beautiful daughter Ayla was born at 30+2 and rushed to the NICU.
I had my bowel resection 13 days later. during my surgery they found that my tumour had broken through the bowel wall and fused to my uterus, appendix and one of my ovaries. They all had to be urgently removed during the surgery.
I recovered in hospital for eight days, while also trying to spend as much time as I could in the NICU and pump milk for my baby. The recovery was quite tough. I finally went home and 3 days later ended up back in hospital with terrible vomiting. This landed me in a seven-day stint in the ICU.
During this time, I lost even more weight and became extremely frail. Unable to pump for days, I lost my milk supply. I was finally reunited with my baby after nine days and during my time in hospital she had been moved to another hospital.
I worked hard to regain my milk supply which was successful. My stomach had been cut one way from my caesarean and then cut from my belly button to my pubic bone from my resection and the wound wouldn’t close.
After seven and a half weeks of Ayla being in hospital, she was finally ready to come home with us. However, my mum was extremely ill and I felt she didn’t have long left with us, so the day after we brought Ayla home from hospital we made the drive up from Melbourne to Brisbane.
Sadly, my beautiful mum died three weeks after we arrived in Brisbane. I also spent time in the hospital during this time with a bladder infection.
On return to Melbourne, my wound was still open, and a few months had passed so I made the decision not to have chemo.
One year on my baby is growing beautifully and I am cancer free and moving on with my life. I now feel mostly back to my normal self and am very grateful to be given another chance.