Sarah's Story

I was 47 years old, working as a busy Psychiatrist, when I was diagnosed with Stage 4 sigmoid colon cancer out of the blue. My tumour was circumferential, so I didn’t experience any bowel symptoms. My eventual presentation was in fact due to liver capsule stretch from the extensive liver metastases.

It took a few weeks for me to be diagnosed as I was positive for Epstein Barr Virus, so my GP thought I had a viral hepatitis. This seemed to explain my deranged liver function tests, but over the weeks they deteriorated instead of improving. Liver ultrasound scan was normal, despite there being multiple liver metastases. It wasn’t until I had an MRI scan of my abdomen that the metastases were detected, along with a suspicious thickening in my sigmoid colon. My diagnosis was swiftly confirmed by colonoscopy and I found myself sitting in front of an Oncologist before I could process the news.

Since diagnosis in October 2023, I have had six rounds of chemotherapy, consisting of FOLFOXIRI with Bevacizumab. The response of my cancer has been miraculous. The disease in my liver has shrunk dramatically and is no longer metabolically active on PET scan. My primary tumour has also shrunk, and I am booked for a bowel resection in the near future. This is after my Oncologist initially said I was not a candidate for surgery as the cancer in the liver was so widespread.

I have had to stop working. I am filling my time with my beautiful family, physical fitness regimes, and learning to play the piano. Life is very different now. My medical team believe I will never be cured. If that is the case, I will live with this disease for as long as possible.

My one piece of advice for others: I am thankful every day that I have income protection insurance. I am the main earner for the family. I have 19-year-old twin sons. I had no risk factors for cancer, no family history and no personal medical history. However, cancer still happened and without my income protection we would be under huge financial stress.

I have learned to enjoy each day and feel truly blessed to be alive and to have access to such amazing medical treatment.

Bowel Cancer Australia have been an amazing support for me. I have joined The Movement, which is a Bowel Cancer Australia’s nurse moderated Facebook group. It is so important to link with others with similar issues, to be able to share advice and support. From this group I learnt about the benefits of icing to prevent peripheral neuropathy with one of the chemotherapy drugs, and was the first person in Townsville to use this, with great results so far.

There is another group called Mindful Movement which is all about encouraging us to move and exercise, which helps me to keep motivated on those difficult days.

I have had several sessions with Jo, the Bowel Care Nutritionist. She has helped me with my gut cramping, and to manage my post operative diet to minimise discomfort whilst optimising nutrition.

Bowel Cancer Australia are helping me get through this journey that none of us want to be on, and are an invaluable resource for people in my situation.