I was 47 when I was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer. I wasn’t in any pain. In fact the only symptoms I had was sporadic blood showing up in my poop and some constipation and cramps. Nothing really – or so I thought.
I’d been doing a bit of international travel with work and so the first doctor I saw thought I might have picked up a bug. I had a stool test but it came up inconclusive. About two months later a second GP thought I might have a cut in the lining of my rectum and sent me home with some cream. Finally, a month later my local GP recommended me for a colonoscopy (to get to the bottom of things…). I would have had to wait a few months in the public system so I decided to get mine done privately ($2500 – ouch).
But that ended up being the best decision I ever made – as they soon found a very large tumour that was nearly blocking my bowel. I then had a series of tests and scans – it was a scary time for me and my family as we waited to see if the cancer had spread elsewhere in my body. Around a month later I was on the operating table to remove the tumour. I had only just acted in time – the tumour had nearly grown through my bowel wall.
After I recovered from the surgery I had eight rounds of chemotherapy. I handled that alright and tried to be at work as much as possible – hanging around the house just did my head in. I found having an ileostomy (a temporary colostomy bag on my stomach which I did my ‘business’ in) was pretty horrible – it limited what I could do and made me very self-conscious. But it was necessary to give my lower bowel a chance to heal.
After chemo I had an operation to remove the colostomy bag and re-join my bowel. Unfortunately the join failed and the contents of my bowel leaked into my abdomen for around 5 days before the doctors picked it up. That had set up an extensive general infection in my abdomen that required further emergency surgery. Luckily after a second go they successfully joined me up and I was free of the dreaded colostomy bag.
That was about 3 months ago. I’m very happy to have my body back and to be doing normal things like walking the dogs, playing golf and just generally getting on with my life.