I was 38 years old and enjoying life with my beautiful family and didn’t even have bowel cancer on my radar.
Believe it or not I am the one with the good bowels in the family and would go regularly like clockwork every morning before work.
I remember it was Winter (where I live it gets into the minuses) and wasn’t really doing very much exercise and was eating a lot of comfort food (you know to keep warm ;)) when things got a bit irregular. For a few weeks I didn’t think much of it and resolved to go for a walk and eat more salads – when the weather got warmer.
Well things didn’t improve and one morning I couldn’t get off the toilet without sitting back down (with no results) and was going to be late for work. So off to the doctor I went to see what was going on. He performed a physical exam (only the beginning of my closer relationship with that part of my anatomy) and could feel something. Still not thinking this is anything too serious, off for a colonoscopy I go for further investigation.
I remember sitting there with quite a few other lovely people but noticing quite an age gap between us. This was a ‘routine’ procedure for them. Well the results were not really what I was expecting with the doctor explaining I had a malignant tumour in my rectum. I remember thinking that’s the bad one right. I don’t think the seriousness of it hit me until later as I was still feeling a little groggy from the anaesthetic and was hanging out for something to eat. It was funny, because as the ‘c’ word wasn’t mentioned I really wasn’t that worried until a month or so later after having blood tests, CT scans etc and I was sitting in front of a colorectal surgeon that it really hit me - I have bowel cancer.
The tumour was the size of a large lemon, small orange and needed to come out. Things got busy then as he outlined my pathway to recovery. I never had anyone talk to me as if this was the end just the beginning. The beginning of a journey that if I stayed on the path would lead to me being able to stick around to see my two lovely daughters grow up and grow old with my wonderful husband like I promised him.
My treatment included 6 weeks of radiotherapy and chemotherapy in a town two hours from where I live. Thanks to Can Assist there is a wonderful place where I could stay called Lilier Lodge to be near the treatment facilities with my amazing mum by my side every step of the way. Then I was off to the RPA in Sydney for my surgery which included an Ultra Low Anterior Resection, J-pouch and Loop Ileostomy – in other words let’s get this thing out of you.
I had a temporary stoma whilst having 6 more months of chemotherapy and finally my stoma reversed last year. I now have a new ‘normal’ and am so very grateful to the doctors, nurses and support staff that I have met along the way. I have also had the opportunity to attend relaxation classes through the Cancer Council during my treatment which have been wonderful and where I have met others going through their own challenges and we have all learnt to be more mindful and appreciate every day.
So if your bowel habits change, no matter how old you are and even if you don’t have any blood, then just go and get checked out. It may be nothing but it may be something more and early detection could save your life – just like it did mine.
Leeanne Trantino (38, NSW)