Letisia’s story

“The CT scan shows you have a tumour in your bowel, it’s almost a total obstruction of your bowel and you need to undergo emergency surgery”. I never expected to hear those words from the doctor.

2019 started with a failed relationship I did not see coming and just as I was picking up the pieces of my broken heart, I fell terribly ill. I went to see a doctor, who ordered a bunch of tests, which all came back clear. Even though I still felt ill, the doctors could not pick up anything. I continued to experience discomfort and bloating in my stomach area and in June, the doctors diagnosed me with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). As the months progressed, I modified my diet and eating habits in efforts to determine food(s) contributing to the discomfort and bloating.

However, it seemed that no matter what I ate or did not eat resulted in discomfort and bloating. Months went by and things only got worse. Eventually, I stopped eating altogether because of the discomfort — even water irritated my stomach. In November that year, I woke up one morning in agonising pain (I had experienced mild pain in my stomach previously). I was taken to the Emergency Department (ED) by Ambulance. Doctors conducted an x-ray and found that my large bowel was dilated (having suffered from constipation, this made sense). I was administered medication to release the congestion and I felt instantly better. After a few hours of observation, I was deemed well enough to go home and discharged. However, a couple of days later, I started experiencing the same symptoms of pain all over again.

I went back to the hospital and this time, a CT scan revealed an obstruction (tumour) in my bowel. Doctors advised that I would have to undergo for emergency surgery, which was performed two days later due to priority of other patients. This worked out well for me because it allowed just enough time for my mother to fly into Adelaide and walk me to theatre right before surgery. By the grace of God, the surgery went well, however results of the tumour came back as “low grade cancer” — stage two bowel cancer. At 34, doctors said it was uncommon for people my age and younger to develop bowel cancer.

About a month and a half after the operation I was told that I needed to go through chemotherapy treatment. Whilst the doctors believed the tumour was removed, the Oncologist revealed that there appeared to be a small hole in the excised intestine.

This news was yet another huge blow. I was so disappointed, depressed and angry at myself and I kept thinking — if only I ate well and looked after myself, this is all my fault somehow etc. I went through denial, blaming myself, to thinking my life was over. Filled with worry, I kept thinking — A small hole? How will chemo affect me? What if the cancer returns? Will I be able to have children? I was so disappointed and in despair said “God I’m giving this all to you because I can’t deal with it”.

As I write to you now, I completed 30 weeks of weekly Chemotherapy treatments at the end of August 2020. Chemotherapy as you can imagine has been tough on my body and as my body starts to rebuild itself, I am amazed at what I have been able to achieve by the grace of God during this time. I was supported by family, friends and work colleagues. Following a colonoscopy and full body CT scan, I was cleared from the Cancer Centre in September 2020.