Tanya’s Story

I had been having blood in my stool for about a year before my diagnosis. When I first noticed the blood, it was only small amounts but as time went on the amounts increased.

I was caring for my mum who was dying of terminal cancer around the time my symptoms started so she was my main focus. Mum was actually the one who made me go to the doctors to get checked out. At that GP visit I was told “it will probably be IBS or IBS,” “you’re too young for it to be cancer.” Cancer honestly never crossed my mind. Although “google” told me cancer!

I wasn’t losing weight; my bloods were mainly normal apart from a slightly raised faecal calprotectin level and I didn’t have pain. I was definitely more tired than usual but I had a lot going on and just put it down to stress and lack of sleep. I did have bouts of nausea but again I put it down to stress. I’d made a couple more GP visits as the blood and diarrhoea were getting worse to the point I didn’t want to leave my house in fear of having an “accident.”

I would go to the toilet 30 times a day sometimes. My GP referred me to a gastroenterologist and eventually I got an appointment. I was put on the urgent list for a colonoscopy due to a strong family history of gastro cancers and my symptoms and was told I would be seen within 4 weeks. In this appointment once again I was told “you’re too young it won’t be cancer.” That urgent colonoscopy never happened.

Fast forward 8 months I was getting ready for work, feeling tired but ok. I had a wave of nausea come over me and needed to go to the toilet. I knew then that something bad was wrong! I looked in the toilet bowl and there was so much blood and it wasn’t stopping. I was taken to hospital via ambulance and it was when a second doctor done a physical examination and felt a mass! I didn’t want to hear the words but I knew by the gasp and the look on the doctor’s face that it was cancer.

The anxiety that come over my body was something I had never experienced before and I ran… literally ran out of my hospital room! I had 25 rounds of chemo/radiation which was horrific but successful in shrinking the tumour to a scar. I was told I had a complete response, and all the cancer was gone! I was so relieved.

Unfortunately, 3 months later the cancer was back. I had a procedure called Tammis to remove the cancer and the surgeon got clear margins but I was left with absolutely no bowel control due to my tumour being on my sphincter muscle and was pretty much confined to my house. It was decided that I have APR Surgery to remove my entire rectum and have a permanent colostomy formed. This would give me my life back and essentially “cure” me.

The recovery was horrendous. I’ll be forever grateful for all the support I got. I’m now 11 months post APR and have my first-year colonoscopy and CT scan coming up… Scanxiety is real!!! Although I’m dealing with pain and the effects of radiation my life is good. I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones. Unfortunately, so many aren’t. Nobody is too young and change needs to happen. Bowel cancer can be treated successfully if caught early! I hope my story can help raise awareness that you are #nevertooyoung I was 39.