A few months after turning 43 in 2016, I started to experience regular constipation and night-time pain. Over the next couple of months, I tried drinking more water, increasing fibre and eating better in order to see if the symptoms when away.
Eventually, the night-time pain was causing loss of sleep and I went to see my GP. She wasn't sure if it was anything serious, but I did some tests and blood was found in faeces.
After a referral to a gastroenterologist, I was lucky to get an appointment quickly and be booked in for a colonoscopy. Again, there was no expectation of anything serious. There is no family history of bowel cancer.
Waking from my colonoscopy, I found out that I had stage 3 colorectal cancer. During 2017, I had 6 weeks of radiation therapy with oral chemotherapy. After a break, I then had surgery to remove the cancer and create a stoma. Following surgery, I had 8 rounds of intravenous chemotherapy. I was lucky to be able to only have the ileostomy for 4.5 months with reversal surgery taking place in early 2018.
After around 10 months of being considered NED, my scans in December 2018 indicated that I now had lesions in my lungs. My cancer had progressed to Stage 4.
Since the start of 2019, I have had over 70 rounds of chemotherapy which has managed to keep new lesions from appearing and stopped the existing lesions from growing out of control.
At this stage, I am on chemotherapy for life, but I am thankful as it could be a lot worse.
For anyone experiencing changes in bathroom habits, please see a doctor and/or a specialist.
I pushed for my colonoscopy from the start as I knew something was wrong. I didn't have many side effects and I could have easily been ignored.
If you feel like something is wrong, keep trying until someone listens. A doctor only sees you for a small part of a day. They may not see you when you are feeling at your worst.
Don't let anyone tell you it's unlikely due to your age. At 43, I was well under the expected age to start checking.
You know your body and what feels right and wrong. Even if test results prove nothing is wrong, it's worth it for peace of mind.