I was the picture of health, fitness, and youth when symptoms began. I'd lost 26kgs over the preceding years and had managed to keep it off for over a decade. I ate "clean", exercised regularly, and had a "healthy BMI".
My very first and extremely distressing symptom was massive blood loss with a bowel movement that landed me in hospital. Despite that, I spent over 18 months trying to have doctors and specialists acknowledge my distress, the MANY symptoms - from severe anaemia, stomach pains, regular blood loss with each bowel movement (all which steadily worsened over the many months), and provide a diagnosis.
I was finally diagnosed Stage 2 bowel cancer on Friday Nov 30th 2018 at the age of 38.... considered "too young" for bowel cancer. I was diagnosed thanks to a brilliant GI, who along with an equally amazing colorectal surgeon, saved my life.
Surgery was on Dec 5 2018 to remove part of my ascending large intestine, appendix - because the tumour had almost ruptured it - and 21 lymph nodes. This was followed by chemo which was incredibly hard on me emotionally and physically. Thankfully, my family and friends were wonderful and supported me throughout the six months of treatment.
Today, I'm in remission and while I'm physically well, I have emotional scars that are still raw. Scanxiety is a term I now know and understand all too well. Survivor's guilt is real. And the stress that cancer will rear its ugly head again is constant. Physically, I struggle with my new body composition, yet I continue to exercise regularly to reduce the likelihood of any possible comorbidities. Exercising is the one thing I know helped me before surgery, kept me strong during treatment and continues to fortify me now, in survivorship.
My advice: Be aware of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer because early detection can, and does, save lives. No one knows what's normal for your body and if something seems off, seek medical advice - as many times as it takes ... regardless of your age.