It Won’t Happen To Me… Right?

As cheesy as it sounds those heart wrenching adverts that part annoy us and part make us feel immensely guilty we seen on our screens are right. You will never forget the day that you are diagnosed with cancer.

You have a heightened sense of your surroundings, the atmosphere, the murmured voices and the expressions of the staff when you walk into the clinic. Those immortal words being uttered with the rest of detail being drowned out by the feelings of terror inside your head. You look calm on the outside, nod in agreement in what seems the appropriate places and smile politely at your new ‘Cancer Key Worker’.

This day happened to me on Wednesday 8th October 2014 at midday to be precise. I knew before then though that this was cancer. I knew from the colposcopy the day before that something really wasn’t right, the concerned looks that were being thrown between the colposcopist and the team of nurses as they took a biopsy. It was cemented when I returned the next day following my rushed through results by the receptionist in the clinic. She looked terrified as I approached the desk and immediately ran off to tell the consultant that I was here. A nurse walked past us and gave us a sympathetic look.

Telling me I had cancer was a mere formality.

Mine was an odd route to Bowel Cancer though. Although in hindsight I did have some of the typical symptoms associated with the illness such as bleeding from the back passage, change in bowel habit, anaemia and weight loss these were all attributed to other ailments that seemed a more likely cause at the time.

My first noticeable symptoms started back in Feb 2014 – a whole 8 months before my diagnosis. I had started experiencing abnormal bleeding between my periods, I was also very tired all of the time and had started to lose weight. I wasn’t worried by those last two though as I put the tiredness down to working long hours on a big project and not eating regularly plus I’m also the lucky owner of Chronic Kidney Disease which can make me tired.

After several weeks of visiting my GP to find out the reason for the bleeding, general infections and STDs were ruled out and a smear test came back clear. After asking if symptoms of constipation could be related, it was decided that it was probably the endometriosis that I had previously been diagnosed with and a referral to the Women’s Hospital was made for further tests.

After many more weeks of waiting, I finally got to see a consultant. All the exam revealed was that yes, I was bleeding a lot and I was referred to colposcopy for a more detailed exam and an ultrasound. More weeks later, both tests came back clear and it was decided there was nothing wrong with me. By this point I knew that something wasn’t as I could feel an actual lump inside and I begged them to check again. The second exam revealed the lump and I was once again referred back to colposcopy and to that fateful day.

But what are the symptoms of Bowel Cancer? For anyone who is worried the most common symptoms are listed below. It is worth remembering that the chances are there isn’t anything to worry about but if you have any of the below, please don’t ignore them or be embarrassed by them. Diagnosed early, this cancer can be easier to treat.

  • Bleeding from the back passage or blood in your stool
  • A change in bowel habit (constipation or diarrhoea that doesn’t improve)
  • Loss of weight
  • Stomach, back or rectal pain

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