In 2018 I fulfilled my long-held dream to travel to New York with Ness and Sha, two of my closest girlfriends at the time.
That trip proved to be an important turning point in my life. Besides spontaneous sidewalk pizza and wine stops, lunching in Central Park and bar-hopping around Manhattan, I spent a lot of time in the hotel with what I thought was gastro. One day I’d feel fine, and the next, I would have severe diarrhea and be so bloated I looked like I was in early pregnancy.
You know that feeling when you don’t want to wreck a big event or holiday by being the sick and miserable one, so you just try to push through? I hadn’t come all the way around the world to be stuck on a toilet while my friends headed out to the city that never sleeps! Ugh.
But returning home, I still felt off. I know my body and amidst all the business of life back home, I could hear it trying to tell me something. The blood in the toilet bowl (not a period) was the final straw, and it was then I realised things were NOT right. I booked in to see my GP who could have easily put my symptoms down to hemorrhoids, a bacterial infection or IBS; but instead she made the life-saving decision to refer me to a gastroenterologist for a colonoscopy.
A colonoscopy? At thirty-three?! Isn’t it just the over 50s who get sent that test in the mail? Nope.
But what was more inconvenient was the news that came out of the doctor’s mouth when I woke up from my slumber.
She had found two large polyps in my intestine which she had cut out, but said I needed to come back the next day for the test results. I looked at my diary and said I had my eyebrows booked in for a touch up. Could we do another day? The doctor didn’t look impressed and said, ‘This is serious, Isabelle.’
‘What are you testing for?’ I asked.
‘Cancer,’ she replied.
I went on to film that night, and even though physically I felt fine, the anxiety bubbled away underneath.
I never thought the C word would come at me this early in life. But what I’ve learned is that if you allow your thoughts to wander away from what’s really going on, the anxiety perpetuates. I didn’t have cancer so there was no need to give any air time to that in my brain. Was there? Instead, I laughed and cried at the TV with my mum and grandma and went to get the results the next day.