My Cancer Journey
My cancer journey started when I was 30 years old 10 years ago today when I was diagnosed with bowel cancer after having been told just 2 months before that it was IBS. I remember the appointment like it was yesterday although there is a lot of details that I don’t remember which I guess is my brain’s way of dealing with the situation. I wasn’t expecting the diagnosis at all I thought that it was just a review appointment to see how I’d been getting on with my medication that last thing that I thought I was going to be told was that I had bowel cancer and I had to make a life changing decision there and then about what surgery to have.
It feels unreal now when I think about it, like it was happening to somebody else not me. I remember being sat there with my mum and being told by my consultant to stop taking my medication as I didn’t have IBS I had a condition called Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (polyps throughout my digestive tract) and it was likely that I had cancer although this would have to be confirmed by a specialist in Liverpool. I was then told of the two surgery options that I had and was given some websites to have a look at for further information. My consultant was very helpful and stayed with us a long time while we just talked things over. I then remember going home and phoning my dad and telling him over the phone and he was great he straight away said in his best Dad voice, “It’s ok Lou, we’ll beat it!” and I knew we would.
Life after that day was never the same, I phoned friends and family that night, they were so shocked especially after I’d already been told that it was IBS, nobody was expecting the cancer diagnosis. I went to work the next day and told everybody, some people got upset, others didn’t know what to say but I was fine when I was telling them, I had the same positivity in my voice that my consultant and Dad had.
Then it was Christmas which was quite strange as it would be my last Christmas before my life changing surgery and I didn’t really know what my surgery entailed and part of me just wanted to put it to the back of my mind and just enjoy Christmas.
My Next Appointment
On the 14th January 2008, my surgeon in Liverpool confirmed that I did have bowel cancer and would need to have my large bowel removed the following week. Without having this surgery I was given 4 years to live which was the scariest conversation that I’ve ever had with anybody in my entire life, it was like it was happening to someone else. When I think about it now I think I must’ve been in shock as it all happened so quickly and I’m quite amazed at how I dealt with the situation, maybe it was my age, maybe it was because I wasn’t actually ill beforehand.
What Did Bowel Surgery Entail?
Surgery would result in me having an ileostomy bag which I couldn’t comprehend as I’d never seen one before and didn’t really want to. This surgery was my only option so I decided not to think about it but I knew that once I’d had the surgery then I could just get on with my life (this was quite naïve of me to think like this and maybe I should’ve done more research). I really don’t know how I got through the next week as I have no recollection of it at all. I read my Facebook posts as I was writing this but there was nothing relating to my upcoming surgery.
I do remember one incident very clearly though, at the time I worked in a dental practice 45 miles away. It was on these long drives to work that I remember thinking about things. One day I remember just bursting into tears as I was driving and I had to pull over as I was crying uncontrollably and could not stop, I sat there for a while and just thought why me, what had I done to deserve a cancer diagnosis? I was 30 years old, I’d literally just finished university and had put a deposit down on a house and now this, I didn’t understand it. I thought at the time maybe it was my lifestyle whilst I was in university but my mind was put at rest when I was told that it was due to a faulty gene and nothing I could do would stop the polyps turning cancerous before I was 40.
The following week I was back in hospital, my dad stayed for a while with me to go over paperwork and meet the nurses on my ward and my specialist nurse who went over the detail of my surgery. I think it was at this point that it finally started to sink in, my dad had left and I started to chat to the lady in the bed next to me (we still keep in touch now!) She’d just had the same surgery that I was about to have a few days before so we spoke briefly about it. I remember speaking to all my family and friends that night, the next time that I saw them I would’ve had my surgery and it would all be over.
Little did I know that this was just the beginning of my cancer journey.
Part 2 of my journey to follow in 2 weeks time.
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