When my wife was diagnosed with Stage 3 bowel cancer in 2015 it was shocking. She was an active person who’d just entered her 40’s, she led a healthy lifestyle, she ate well, wasn’t overweight and had no family history of bowel cancer.
What she did have were persistent ‘gastro-like’ symptoms consistent with some sort of stomach bug that had lasted several weeks, an aching back and cramping pain in her side which didn’t seem to abate, inexplicable tiredness and, luckily, a GP who ordered some blood tests which led to a trip to hospital emergency (her iron levels were critically low) and ultimately a meeting with a gastroenterologist who organised and performed a colonoscopy.
Within a month of the cancer being discovered, she had surgery to completely remove her colon (ileo-rectal anastomosis) and then after six weeks of recovery from this major surgery she was put on an intensive 6-month chemotherapy regime.
A few weeks before her symptoms emerged, she had left her job of 20 years and decided to spend the next 12 months looking after our 3-year-old daughter and watching her grow. Instead, the next 12 months involved life-saving surgery, intensive chemo and a long recovery period after.
This all sounds quite horrific and terrible I know, but when I look back at this time the one thing I think is how lucky we are and how thankful I am. Sarah is now in remission and on her way back to leading a normal life. She is back working and spending time with me and our daughter. I am so happy to have my wife back to being herself and my daughter has her mum … enough said. We are lucky because this may not have been the case. It wouldn’t have been the case if Sarah ignored her symptoms and had not gone to the GP. It wouldn’t have been the case if she hadn’t quickly been diagnosed and had an amazing medical team through both her surgery and her chemotherapy journey.
I am happy to get involved in Decembeard on Sarah’s behalf and spread the message that if detection is early enough, there is a fantastic chance of successful treatment. Hopefully by raising awareness, we can also raise funds for Bowel Cancer Australia and help support vital research. As one of the lucky ones, it’s the least I can do.