Paula’s story

My story starts when I turned 50.

I was fit and healthy, no complaints whatsoever. Who knew what was about to happen?

I turned 50 in April 2016, on top of the fantastic party my family threw me, I received the government gift of the ‘Bowel Screening Test’ in the mail.

My husband Ian, who is five years older than me had already completed the test five years before. When his test arrived at the same time as mine, we undertook the test together on 3 June 2016, and received our results together on the 14 June 2016.

I very excitedly opened the test result letters and read Ian’s results first which said ‘Negative’.

I then opened my results and to both our surprise, my results said ‘Positive’.

At first Ian thought I was joking around and asked me to read the results properly, I explained “I am!” and this is how my story began.

I went to see my GP as I thought the results were a mistake and I wanted answers!

My GP asked me how long I had been unwell and had I noticed blood traces in my stools…to both questions, I adamantly answered NO!

My GP wanted me to have an urgent colonoscopy. I couldn’t straight away as I was booked on a family holiday. After the holiday, I underwent a colonoscopy on 6 Jul 2016.

It was after that I was told the dreaded news “you have Bowel Cancer”.

I started crying, I was so emotional I could not believe my ears. How could this be? I am fit, I am not sick …how??? why???

After, more tests, MRIs, lots of consults, I was finally booked in for major surgery on 2 August 2016.

The bowel surgery was long and intense, and there were so many unknowns…would I need a colostomy bag? would I need chemo? would I need radiotherapy? but more so, would I LIVE??

The surgery went for over 6 hours. It involved removing the sigmoid colon (lower bowel), 2 cm below and 20 cm above …a total of 30 cm of bowel. I was very fortunate that the whole 4cm tumour was removed and after further lymph testing of 16 lymph nodes, the results proved the cancer had not spread.  This great news was relayed to me by my amazing surgeon on 4 Aug 16.

From diagnosis to cure …a period of less than four weeks.

Since my diagnosis, my friends around the same age had advised me that they ignored their tests or threw them away. Suddenly now though, they have all taken the test, as I have shocked people into realising that this insidious illness is truly the silent killer that does not discriminate. It proves no matter how fit you are, how well you look after yourself…cancer is non discriminative….it does not care about, age, gender, race or religion, fitness or weight, height or sex …it just doesn’t care!

I was fit, healthy and asymptomatic, meaning that I did not display any symptoms. I was and am the picture of perfect health and weight. I asked the Dr “What would have happened’ if I didn’t do the test?” The answer was shocking! The Dr explained “you would probably have started experiencing signs and symptoms and be dead by 55”.

I am now 55 and fit and healthy, about to do a colonoscopy as it is the 5-year mark.

I am fortunate that my excellent surgeon did such a great job during the long medical procedure, I am very fortunate not to have needed a colostomy bag and it’s expected that I should live a normal healthy cancer-free life. Obviously, I will need to be monitored closely for 10 years, however, I did not need chemo or radiotherapy like it was first thought.

The moral of this story is, no matter how you feel, do the free test when you receive it, as it may save your life. It saved me.