Bowel cancer observations

For someone who has been into fitness, healthy living and distance running to be diagnosed with bowel cancer at the end of February this year was a shock.

In April I was training for marathon no. 14 in Canberra. I was experiencing intermittent abdominal pains in the morning especially when I was exercising. I will describe the pains as an extreme stitch with the addition of a knife cutting through my stomach.

However, I completed the Canberra marathon in a personal worst time 4 hours 23 minutes.

After the Canberra marathon weekend I visited my GP concerned about my constant fatigue and the now constant abdominal pains. She referred me to a physician who thought I was suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and based on my symptoms, suggested a change of diet for a 3 month trial. I made the diet changes and for a time this seemed to manage the symptoms. I might add that I had an ultrasound and blood tests which seem to show no major illness apart from anaemia. Anaemia I have since learnt can be a pointer to cancer.

During this time I was training and focusing on the 10 kilometre series and managed to race a season best time in the Run Sydney half marathon at Olympic Park and completed the Centurion 10km series; an achievement I did not appreciate (at the time) because I thought my race times could have been faster.

Towards the end December the pains returned with a vengeance and I was now extremely fatigued. December was a very busy month for me I was working hard and thought my exhaustion was due to work and lifestyle factors. Christmas came and went and in January this year I determined my number one New Year’s resolution was to resolve my health issues.

More tests were carried out and I had a colonoscopy. My results were not good, that’s when the cancer was discovered. Although this was an unexpected surprise, this cancer diagnoses was a relief, I felt for a long time there was something seriously wrong with my body. It was frustrating at the time, that it took the medical professionals 11 months to diagnose the cancer.

I was lucky I have had wonderful treating doctors and the support of family and friends. After major surgery I had 6 months of chemotherapy and when I felt well enough I tried very hard to maintain a level of fitness. During this time I continued to run, this was very important to me, as it made me feel in charge of my life. I took part in some of the 10km Series City 2 Surf and the Bridge Run.

Chemotherapy affected me more than I expected. The fatigue and nausea can be and is debilitating. I managed this with yoga and towards the end of the treatment I started acupuncture which I believe worked a miracle.

Lessons learnt from this experience:

  • Never let any medical professional say you are too young or too old to get certain illnesses. In my case they thought I was too young.
  • If you feel there is something wrong with your body follow it through? Get a second opinion ask for more tests.
  • Marathon running can be painful, pushing your body hard to run those kilometres can hurt. Some pains should never be ignored

Bowel Cancer facts.

  • Although Bowel Cancer is most common in people over 50 age group it can affect young people under the age of 35 as well.
  • I have learnt that cancer does not discriminate it affects people “who do not fit the profile”
  • If detected early the success rates are very high.
  • It is the second highest cancer in Australia for both men and women.
  • It is one of the cancers which people tend to avoid discussing because of the yuck factor.

Dec 2014