My story with bowel cancer started when my Nana died from it when I was a young girl. My Mum was also diagnosed with it when I was 12, thankfully Mum survived and has been cancer free ever since.
Due to other history within my family, we were encouraged by the Familial GI Cancer Service team to get tested for the Lynch Syndrome MSH2 gene. As I was only 15, Mum fought for me to be tested at the same time as my older brother. I then found out that I was a carrier.
They started screening me regularly from about the age of 20.
By the time I was 30, I was pretty used to the routine of these checks, not exactly a fun time but I became more relaxed about it over time. I was not however, prepared to hear that news… they had found a significant growth.
This is a very traumatic time for anyone I’m sure. This growth was removed along with a piece of my bowel through surgery. A cut from above my belly button down to my pubic bone. I carried on with life, trying to be relatively healthy and you know, sometimes failing at this. Due to the aggressive nature of this last growth I was on the yearly screening schedule.
At the age of 37 they found another growth, this time at the other end of my bowel. The research team suggested to my amazing surgeon that he take the whole lot this time, along with a total hysterectomy and removal of the ovaries as well, because there is plenty of evidence that this genetic strand can transfer across into that department.
I had to make a big decision and fast. I don’t have children and to be honest they were never really part of my plan… however there is a big difference between not wanting children at the moment and not ever being able to have children.
I decided that I had to look after me first.
This time the surgery was a whole lot longer (to be expected). I remember there being SO MANY people in the room. They went in through the old scar, removed my large intestine, joining my small intestine on in its place, then another team came in and removed the reproductive bits and pieces.
The advancements in pain relief and technology over those 7 years was amazing and due to my young age and fitness, I was up walking in no time and off home very quickly.
Unfortunately, a week later whilst at home I must have pushed it too much and managed to burst some internal stitching and landed back in hospital with further very scary complications and another surgery.
I was truly surprised at how quickly I went back to my normal life, our bodies are simply amazing! A few ups and downs as I found myself thrown into menopause meant some experimenting with different options here.
I wanted to tell my story as I found great comfort and support in reading other peoples’ stories. I feel like I also owe it to the family members who we’ve lost, to pass on the message to our young people.
It’s so important to be checked out, I was not symptomatic at all in either of these two situations, so if you are showing symptoms please go and see your doctor.
The regular screening process has saved my life and my Mum’s life, it also meant that I was lucky enough to have escaped chemo, radiation, stomas etc. This is due to the continued work of the familial genetic research geniuses, and for this I am so very very grateful!
I am so happy to be alive and so very thankful to everyone who helped that happen.
Wishing you all much love and strength on your own journeys.
Piki te kaha me te ora ki a koutou katoa.