It was 1997, I was in year 11 and I heard my name being called out to come into the school office. My family were waiting for me inside to let me know that my grandfather had just passed away!
It was only several months earlier that my grandfather whose name I share, and loved with all my life, received the devastating news that he had bowel cancer. I was only 17 and this was the first time I had ever heard about this type of cancer.
I remember feeling so angry and upset that he didn’t speak up or go to the doctor earlier when he noticed things were not right. He had the signs…. blood in stool and weight loss yet how could he just ignore them? Why would he tolerate the pain he was going through? Why did he have to be so stubborn? Why did he not go and get himself checked out earlier? He would still be alive!!
I held such a close bond with my grandfather that I promised myself if I had ever experienced any symptoms like he did I would go get myself checked out.
Fast forward to early January 2022. Like everyone else I couldn’t wait to welcome the new year, especially after the last two years we had all experienced. I first noticed something was not right when all of a sudden, I had an obvious change in my bowel movement. For some reason, after several hours of eating, I noticed I was getting a bit of a gut ache and cramping. I would rush into the bathroom to try and relieve the pain. This went on for several weeks until I couldn’t bare the discomfort and noticed some blood when wiping.
I booked an appointment to go visit my GP to discuss what I was experiencing. I had requested to do some blood tests to see if I was a celiac or possibly had Crohn’s as I couldn’t explain why all of a sudden I was feeling the way I was. A few days passed and the results came back clear. No allergies, no reaction to gluten, slight cholesterol but apart from that everything was perfect.
Not satisfied with the results I was booked to do an ultrasound to check my kidneys and bladder. Again, everything came back clear with no signs of any issues.
It was now mid-March and at this stage I was just trying to learn to live with the symptoms I was experiencing, however it started to get to the stage when blood was now present in my stool. I called my GP again to discuss the ongoing symptoms and without hesitation he booked me in to visit a gastroenterologist. No idea what to expect, I was suddenly booked in to do a colonoscopy the following two weeks.
The day was 7 April 2022. I can still remember the Gastroenterologist closing the curtains to my bed in the day hospital letting me know that he had found a tumour inside my bowel. Still waking up from my sedation I thought it was some crazy April Fool’s joke… I asked him “Do I have cancer?” and he whispered “Yes”. The tears started to roll down my face.
Without having a moment to fully absorb what was going on, I instantly received calls to let me know I was booked in for CT scans, blood tests and to find out if the cancer had spread. I was booked to have a consult with my surgeon, who would go into in-depth detail on my diagnosis and next steps.
The tumour was just over 6cm and sitting on bottom left side of my large colon called the ‘sigmoid’. I was classified with stage 3 and told that the best option for me was to go straight into surgery have the tumour removed along with approximately 10-15cm of the colon. Fortunately for me, I had just caught the cancer before it could have done some serious damage.
My scans came back clear with no signs of the cancer spreading. I couldn’t help but imagine what if I spent another month or two ignoring the symptoms… what if I was like my grandfather and just lived on with the discomfort?
Three weeks have passed, and I am in ICU siting in my hospital bed thinking to myself “Wow” I had cancer!
Surgery was successful, my recovery went extremely well and today I am in what I'm hoping is my final phase of this cancer journey.
I met with my oncologist several weeks ago to discuss my treatment plan as I have agreed to preventative chemo treatment. Although technically I am cancer free, cells of cancer were present in my lymph-nodes and to avoid the possibility of cancer returning I felt this was the right thing to do. Chemo bloody sucks… but I have to do this! If this is the worst part of my whole cancer experience then…Bring…It...On!!
It's been 25 years since my grandfather passed away from bowel cancer… and he saved my life!