I was 28 when I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in January 2011.
I’d had rectal bleeding, changed bowel habits and stomach pain for a while but had put off investigating the symptoms – I was living in China at the time so I figured it was either an intestinal infection that I couldn't seem to shake or a reaction to something I’d eaten.
I was diagnosed with bowel cancer at 44 years old.
I went to see my GP after about twelve months of changed bowel habits and intermittent rectal bleeding, which I assumed was caused by haemorrhoids. The pain I had been experiencing on and off had become quite bad, so I wanted to talk to my GP about other treatment options. I was given a colonoscopy as part of this visit – and that’s when they discovered the tumour in my rectum.
In April 2010, I suffered a huge amount of bleeding when I went to the toilet. I had no warning signs – it just happened out of the blue. It was so bad that I went straight to the emergency ward at the hospital. I think they thought it was just haemorrhoids so I was given a DRE (digital rectal examination) and the doctor took some blood and sent me home.
I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 1993 at the age of 47. I had taken a Rotary Bowelscan test (FOBT) and, when it returned a positive result in May, my GP referred me to a specialist. I was given a colonoscopy in June and told I had a 10 per cent chance of having cancer… turns out, I was in that unlucky 10 per cent! In July I had a bowel resection. Looking back, it all happened so quickly.
I felt I coped really well with the cancer at the time but I experienced more problems about seven years later. I suffered depression and was forced into medical retirement due to poor bowel control, all of which coincided with my father’s death. I think I just bottled up all my emotions, and it wasn’t until I finally saw my GP that I was encouraged to talk about my experiences.
I went to my GP in early 2009 complaining of tiredness and lethargy, rectal bleeding and a change in my bowel habits. But because of my age and the fact that I had recently given birth, I was given only a blood test and told that further investigation wouldn’t be necessary. The blood test showed low iron levels so my tiredness was put down to that.