Jemma Story

“I am 42 years old, with two kids (11 and 13) who very much still need their mum, and three step kids. I have a busy job as an executive manager at a large company. I am also now fighting stage 4 bowel cancer.

Life was going well and fairly settled, if busy. Last year in November, the weekend before our wedding I had some unusual stomach discomfort I couldn’t shake. I tried going for a run, which made things worse and I could feel a bulge on my right side. Eventually we decided to visit an after hours doctor in case it was my appendix. They agreed it could be so I was sent up to ED.

Initial thoughts at ED from the scans showed it was likely a burst appendix, although I wasn’t in much pain. When I woke up from surgery it was to find out it was actually a perforated bowel which had become infected. I just made it out of the hospital in time for our wedding the next weekend.

Fast forward to 27 December when I received the results of my colonoscopy and was told I had bowel cancer that had caused the rupture, and there was a suspicious mass on my liver. Bowel surgery was scheduled for 3 January.

Surgery went well, but I am now working my way through chemotherapy with the hope of being able to have liver resection surgery. It has all happened so fast and there is so much to learn about different mutations, treatments here and overseas, and trying not to get ahead of myself and worry about how long I will live, the risk of not seeing my beautiful children grow up, and what will happen to them without me in their lives. I can see the impact this is having on my friends and family and every day is a battle to stay positive and focussed on the present.

I had no symptoms so there is no advice I can offer about early detection – but I wish there had been a way for me to be screened early enough to catch this before stage 4. A cancer diagnosis at this age is an awful shock, but to be diagnosed at stage 4 feels so unfair. I have had wonderful medical treatment so far and the bowel cancer society has some great resources. I am also keenly looking at developments overseas and hoping Aotearoa is a fast follower with any new treatments. The uncertainty is so very hard.”

Jemma spoke to StuffNZ about her battle with bowel cancer, read the article here.