I was officially diagnosed with Stage 4 Rectal cancer in December 2020. This is my second bowel cancer diagnosis; I was also diagnosed with Stage 1 in 2012.
Nothing prepares you for that feeling of being completely overwhelmed with the fear of what is to come. Will I be alive long enough to watch my son grow up? Will I be on chemo for life? Will I ever get to remission?
Cancer during a pandemic adds another level to the treatment. I spent over 50 days in hospital over the past 12 months, mostly alone due to restrictions.
Many times, I thought I couldn’t do it anymore, the treatment was brutal on my body and my mind. I had surgery complications, went into menopause and now have lasting side effects from the treatment.
But I did it! I made it to the other side of treatment. Three surgeries (including bowel resection, ileostomy and reversal, and removal of adrenal gland and ovaries), six weeks of chemo/radiation, 12 rounds of chemotherapy and a bout of shingles later, I am in remission.
When I look back on what my body and mind went through, I still can’t believe I was able to get through it all.
I am so thankful that my amazing surgeon and oncologist were totally invested in not only treating me with the hope of cure, but to try and still give me a great quality of life.
Cancer can be a very lonely experience, especially during a pandemic. I am so thankful to have had the team from Bowel Cancer Australia checking in on me during both my cancer experiences in 2012 and again in 2020/2021. The practical support of a nurse and nutritionist who understand the impacts of treatment on your life and the Peer-to-Peer Support Network which put me in touch with others in similar situations, really helped me feel like I wasn’t alone.
Since my last surgery, things have progressed well. That’s not to say my life is back to normal, but I am here, I am in remission, and I’m going to try and live my life in the present. I’m enjoying time with my family and friends and trying to make the most of everyday. I will not let my cancer define me!