I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 1999 at 36 years of age. Twelve months prior to my diagnosis I had visited my GP and raised concerns about weight loss, rectal bleeding, changes in my bowel habit, stomach pain and feeling tired. My GP told me it was stress-related.
After numerous visits I felt like I a hypochondriac so I stopped going to the doctor to report the same symptoms and accepted it was stress (even though I didn’t feel it was stress related). I was a single mother with two young children so I told myself it was not unusual to feel tired.
I had a bowel cancer test in November 2006 which came back all clear, therefore when symptoms started occurring in February 2007 I ignored them, at the age of 57, blamed my new job, the change of lunch hours etc. Initially the symptoms were changes in my bowel habits, rectal bleeding with froth and bubbles. Eventually the symptoms started to get serious, with some stomach pain, a heaviness in the back passage and generally feeling uncomfortable. In September 2007 I couldn’t ignore any of this any longer.
In early November 2010 I noticed some weight loss and a change in my bowel habits, including rectal bleeding. I went to the doctor in mid-November and was diagnosed with anaemia and booked in for a colonoscopy later that month. I was told on the day of the colonoscopy that I had bowel cancer.
The next step was surgery, a high anterior resection, which was done in mid-December.
It all happened so quickly that I didn’t really have time to dwell on what was going on, but it never occurred to me before my diagnosis that I might have bowel cancer. I was so young and so busy caring for my two beautiful teenage children that I just didn’t think I was a likely candidate for the disease. But my father had a very similar surgery just eight weeks before mine so it can certainly be said that bowel cancer runs in my family.
I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in May 2010 at the age of 31.
My bowel habits had started to change about two years before, including small amounts of blood on the toilet paper, but I had been told earlier that I had a haemorrhoid so I thought that might explain the bleeding. I was also diagnosed with anaemia just before I fell pregnant about a year after; I would later learn that anaemia can be an indicator of bowel cancer.
It wasn’t until two months after giving birth that I went to see my GP about the bleeding, who referred me to a specialist for a sigmoidoscopy. Three weeks after my initial appointment, I was given a colonoscopy and the surgeon who performed it told me they had probably found cancer. Later that week I had an MRI and a CT scan and the diagnosis was confirmed. Thankfully no secondary cancers were found.
I started experiencing a change in my bowel habits, stomach pains and rectal bleeding in February 2010 so I saw my GP and was sent for blood tests to investigate the cause of the problems. The results came back normal. However, a month later when the bleeding persisted I was referred for a colonoscopy in mid April.
The colonoscopy revealed a 4cm tumour on my sigmoid colon.