For me, earlier detection could have been the difference between a diagnosis of an earlier stage of bowel cancer, or potentially life and death.
I thought I was the last person to ever get bowel cancer, having been vegan for more than 5 years and alcohol free for 3. It took several months of rectal blood loss before I approached my GP.
A specialist performed a sigmoidoscopy where nothing was discovered and at the time my symptoms seemed to have resolved.
I was considered to be at low risk due to my age, so was advised to wait and see. A few months later the blood loss began again, so I booked in for a colonoscopy. In October 2013, at age 31, I was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer. The cancer was removed during surgery and I am currently undergoing chemotherapy.
Anyone is susceptible to bowel cancer and early detection is truly your best chance at beating it. Don’t ignore the symptoms.
Since completing chemotherapy in 2014, I continued to have regular checkups with my surgeon and oncologist. So far, all blood tests and colonscopies have been clear. I still become a little anxious in the lead up to test results. I generally feel healthy but cancer remains a looming thought in the back of my mind. I experience frequent aches and pains, which I attribute to surgery but I am grateful to still have an active and fulfilling life.
I now work part-time, which has been the greatest positive change in my life. I’m sure I would not have reached this decision so early in my career, if not for cancer. Working part-time has significantly improved my relationships, emotional wellbeing, and added to my career longevity.
Sharing my story has prompted others to undergo screening, including a few family members who have since been diagnosed with cancer. I am now participating in research that is looking for genetic links to bowel cancer. For now, I encourage others to exercise, eat well, drink less, smoke never, visit the doctor if they develop symptoms and undergo screening.