Monday the 20th of August 2018 will be forever etched in my memory. Like a bad tattoo that you wished you had the foresight to not go ahead with, it will stay with me forever.
My new life began when I was at an appointment with my three-year-old son. I had a missed call on my mobile, and I instinctively knew that it was my GP. When I listened to her message asking me to come into the practice that day, I of course knew that she had bad news for me.
The facts on bowel cancer. Post continues after video.
On the Friday prior, I had undergone a colonoscopy to investigate some non-specific intermittent stomach cramping, and some mild occasional stomach bloating and pain. I have no family history of bowel cancer or bowel disease, and I had no bleeding. But what I do have is a trust in my intuition, and my body was telling me that ‘something just wasn’t right’. I had recurrent niggling thoughts, like ‘I really should see a doctor about that bloating’ and ‘hmm, that cramping just isn’t normal’.
Acting on the symptoms, and a skilled GP assessment and referral pathway, has saved my life.
My amazingly talented GP (and guardian angel) had recommended the colonoscopy to ‘cover all bases’. Bowel cancer can be difficult to diagnose particularly in the early stage. Early bowel cancer symptoms can ‘mimic’ many other conditions including irritable bowel disease and food intolerances.
I must admit that even though I have been a nurse for 18 years, I never in my wildest nightmares could have imagined what has unfolded for me and my family over the past six months. How did I miss that I had something seriously wrong with me? Had I really been that consumed by motherhood, work and general life to totally drop the ball on my own health? Yup! I had.
After my colonoscopy, the Gastroenterologist who performed the procedure told me that he had removed two small polyps (a small growth of tissue on the wall of the bowel that are often harmless, but can develop into cancer). He said that he was “a little worried about one of the polyps”. And so began my new life as a mum of two little boys, a wife, a daughter, a friend, and a colleague who had bowel cancer.
LISTEN: The symptoms you need to look out for when it comes to gynecological cancer. Post continues after audio.
We have all seen in movies or read accounts of how people react when they receive life-changing news that confronts a person with their mortality. Or some of us have family and friends who have retold their stories of being given ‘bad news’. What I really want everyone to know is that no one else’s story will prepare you for your story. And your story will be completely different, so please don’t try to compare. Your age, your pre-existing general physical and mental health, the current stresses in your life, your responsibilities (family, work, community engagements), your financial situation, and your ongoing support group will all have an impact on how you respond to your diagnosis and travel through your treatment or management plan.