Age at diagnosis: 32
Symptoms: Fatigue, low iron, change in bowel movements, severe stomach cramps
Duration of symptoms: 2 years
Diagnosis: Stage 2 bowel cancer
Treatments: Total colectomy and ileorectal anastomosis (no bag) + 8 rounds chemotherapy (oral capecitabine).
My story: I was fit and healthy and didn’t fit the profile of a bowel cancer patient, with no family history.
I had all of the symptoms; including very bad stomach cramps, blood in my stools, low iron, loss of appetite, fatigue. I was given multiple rounds of iron tablets that had little impact and there was a lot of discussion about IBS and the FODMAP diet.
I was in London at the time of my diagnosis and after around two years of conversation around IBS with my GP I referred myself to a gastroenterologist, after a friend suggested it, and my private health insurance covered my treatment.
After having the colonoscopy I went on to have a total colectomy and ileorectal anastomosis 2 weeks later. The tumour was in the mid/distal transverse colon, with 25 polyps presenting in the first third up to the tumour. The diagnosis was stage two, an 8cm tumour – T3 NO MO adenocarcinoma (better than expected from the scans). Due to my age I was advised to undergo eight rounds of chemotherapy (capecitabine). Also due to my age I went through a round of IVF in between surgery and chemo starting to freeze eggs. From diagnosis to surgery it was two weeks and meant I missed out on going to Glastonbury that year!
My specialist told me I was likely 2 months away from needing emergency surgery as there was only a pin head sized gap for food to get through my bowel, which explains the full feeling and pain I was experiencing.