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.
In March 2019 we said goodbye to one of our long time supporters, Sherie Hagger. She was passionate about sharing her story and raising awareness of early detection and screening. Sherie was too young to leave us, her strength and courage was inspirational to all of us at the Jodi Lee Foundation.