I am 48 years old, a wife and mother of 2 teenage girls and this is my bowel cancer journey.
My story began when I visited my local GP in April 2019 to talk about my restless legs at night. I had been experiencing this for about a month and it was interrupting my sleep at night.
My GP sent me for blood tests which were all good except my iron level was very low, which was unusual for me. Due to the low level I was booked in for an iron infusion within a week of the test result, and my doctor also referred me for a colonoscopy and gastroscopy.
The day of my colonoscopy was like any other as I was preparing for the procedure, but it all changed when I was in recovery and the nurse told me that the doctor wanted to see me. This was my first colonoscopy so I didn't have any preconceived thoughts of what could happen, so it came as such a massive shock when the doctor told me he had found a growth in my bowel, that in his opinion couldn't be anything else but bowel cancer.
The shock hit me pretty hard and my initial thought was, hang on a minute, I'm only 47 years old and I haven't had any symptoms relating to the bowel, and does this mean that this will affect our planned holiday, where we were due to leave in 4 weeks’ time to cruise around the Caribbean Islands.
I guess it was the shock talking - all I could think of was missing out on our holiday, and how this would affect my husband and 2 girls. The doctor then proceeded to tell me that he had made an appointment to see a surgeon the next day, and this is where my journey starts.
The next day I didn't really know what to expect seeing the surgeon, but he was so informative with only the facts, and made plans for a CT scan the next day, and surgery 6 days after that. He drew me a diagram showing where my tumour was and what he would be doing in the surgery.
Surgery went well and the tumour was removed along with the right half of my bowel. The surgeon came to see me later that day and told me that the surgery went well but due to the cancer breaking through the outer wall of my bowel, I would need to have further treatment of chemotherapy.
At this stage I was just relieved to know that the tumour had been removed and I would deal with the rest as it happened. My next appointment was with an oncologist who proceeded to tell me that due to my cancer being Stage 3, I would need to start a 6-month chemotherapy program in 4 weeks. He also told me that we would need to cancel our family holiday, which of course was so disappointing for me and my family, after waiting over 9 months for our trip.
I started my chemotherapy (Folfox, which included 4-hour infusion in hospital, plus a 48-hour drip fed bottle that was attached before I left the hospital). My treatment was fortnightly for a 6-month period. I had been so strong throughout the whole process so far, but sitting in the recliner chair in the chemo ward waiting for the nurse to hook me up for the first time, it suddenly hit home what was about to happen to me and I had a cry.
Nobody can tell you what to expect and how you will feel as everyone is different. I'm sure like me you've seen many movies where people are so sick, so I feel very lucky that I didn't suffer from any side effects during the treatment, except for the normal things like not being able to drink cold water, and a little tiredness the day after treatment.
My employer was so supportive of me during my treatment, and completely left it up to me when and how much I could work, and as I didn't suffer many side effects I was able to keep working a few days per week, which I really think helped me mentally. I also did as much walking and exercise as I could during these 6 months which helped me physically.
I really feel that it is super important to stay as positive as possible, and I believe my positivity definitely helped me through. My oncologist sent me for a CT scan 5 months into treatment for a progress report and I was extremely relieved to get the results back that I was cancer free ... What a great day that was!!
Once I got the clearance, I booked a celebration trip which was a cruise from Sydney to Hawaii in March this year, but then came along Covd-19 and unfortunately another holiday was cancelled. I've just had my follow up CT scan 4 months after completing my treatment, and I am all clear, which is such a relief. I really think things happen for a reason and we will get to go on our long awaited holiday, but for now I am just thankful that I've got my health, my family and friends and I am now ready to talk about my journey and hopefully inspire others while they go through similar challenges.