I was 34 when a colonoscopy revealed I had stage III bowel cancer that had started to spread to my lymph nodes.
I was an otherwise fit, healthy mother with no family history of bowel cancer. My symptoms included slight rectal bleeding for about 8 months which I attributed to hemorrhoids following a pregnancy. I also experienced more frequent bowel movements, and a single incident of an upset tummy. That was in 2010.
Following surgery, and 9 months of intensive radiotherapy and chemotherapy, I am recovering – all thanks to my doctor, who recognised the symptoms and ordered the screening.
As a survivor of bowel cancer, I strongly advocate regular screening from an early age. I publically encourage people to speak to their doctor if they experience bowel cancer symptoms, no matter what their age, and especially new mothers who tend to ignore changes to their bodies and fatigue.
I am extremely grateful for the support provided by my husband, two children, two step-children and mother. As with any illness, bowel cancer is emotionally exhausting and all-consuming for the whole family.