Age at diagnosis: 26
Symptoms: Anaemic, blood within the stools, unexplained weight loss, low energy, severe GI discomfort, pain, and alternating diarrhoea and constipation.
Duration of symptoms: 16 months
Diagnosis: Stage 3 Dukes C1 colon cancer in descending colon with lymph node involvement.
Treatments: Sub-total colectomy, Folfox intravenous chemotherapy and Capecitabine oral chemotherapy.
My story: Despite displaying all of the symptoms of bowel cancer, I was put in the box of “young, fit and healthy”. I was young and fit, but I wasn’t healthy.
Blood and stool tests were not done. Instead I was put on a non-urgent colonoscopy wait-list under public care and told to eat more fibre and take peppermint tea. I presented with a major bowel obstruction at A&E long before my colonoscopy was due.
In hindsight, continuity of care was an issue in my situation. I saw several different doctors in the 16 months at my large and busy GP practice. My persistent symptoms were not connected together and I was essentially ‘lost’ in the system.
I’m left with questions about ‘what if’ I was diagnosed earlier. It’s taken some time, with mediation through the health and disability commissioner, to begin my healing process without anger. I am very proactive with my health care now and I encourage those around me to be as well.
No 26-year-old should have to go through what I went through – we need to change the conversation and smash the belief that this is an older person’s disease.