It was supposed to be a happy time in my life – I had just bought my first home, I was looking into studying Nutrition and my first niece had just been born – but I wasn’t well. I thought the stress of buying and moving was causing my gut irritation. My friend was six months pregnant at the time and had sent me a picture message of her baby bump… it looked just like my tummy, except I wasn’t pregnant! I was severely bloated and doubled over in pain everyday. I was struggling to eat, and I wasn’t absorbing the little that I could. I had blood in my stool and I was fatigued, it was taking me two hours to get up and ready for work each day.
This went on for four long months, as I continued to hassle the doctors, begging for a colonoscopy. Finally I had one. I was called back a week later for a sigmoidoscopy, which confirmed I had bowel cancer. I was only 31 years old. I had surgery to remove the tumour but they found the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. I had three major operations and six stints in hospital in less than two months. I honestly didn’t know how I was going to survive. I was already so emotionally and physically drained and knew I had so much to fight. I cut myself off from friends, didn’t ask anyone for help, and lent entirely on my parents and sisters. I started to plan my funeral and who my belongings would go to.
After weeks of radiotherapy and 24/7 chemo I then had more surgery to address complications. When I was told that I had six months worth of weekly chemo ahead of me, I wanted to give up. I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, I couldn’t comprehend going to the hospital every single week for half a year to be pumped full of poison, that I knew would make me sick, but was absolutely necessary. I had no quality of life and didn’t see my friends for about nine months. I couldn’t work, couldn’t function. Getting out of bed and having a shower was an effort in itself.
It has been 18 months since my diagnosis and I am only just starting to rebuild my life and adapt to a new normal. A recent scan and blood test shows everything looks okay, but I will need to be closely monitored for the next five years.
I am determined to spread the word that this disease is not one that only affects people over 50. I would also like to see more support for bowel cancer patients, in particular younger sufferers, as I have felt very isolated since being diagnosed.