Patient shares bowel cancer journey
Published at: 07 Jun 2019
This month marks Bowel Cancer Australia’s initiative Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. June is a time to raise awareness of one of Australia's deadliest cancers and raise funds for the community-funded charity dedicated to prevention, early diagnosis, research, quality treatment and the best care for everyone affected by bowel cancer. A highlight of the month is Red Apple Day on Wednesday, June 19 when Australians are encouraged to support the work of Bowel Cancer Australia through the purchase of a Bowel Cancer Awareness Ribbon and apple-themed fundraising activities.
Bowel Cancer Australia was formed in 2000 by a small team of specialists who were focused on a better health future not only for the patients they treated but for all Australians.
Despite a long history of digestion issues, when Sue* felt an unbearable pain in her stomach last year she booked in to see her GP.
“I never really went to the doctors but I thought I had an ulcer,” she said. Visiting her doctor in Kyabram, it was not for some time before Sue had learned exactly what had caused the pain.
After inconclusive colonoscopies and gastroscopies in Kyabram and Shepparton, Sue said it was a laparoscopy that resulted in her diagnosis being confirmed.
“On November 30, I found out I had a....tumour,” she said.
The 61-year-old then began her treatment journey, meeting with GV Health bowel cancer support nurse Katie Emanuelli.
But just weeks into her chemotherapy treatment to reduce the size of the tumour, Sue presented to the emergency department with a complete blockage of her bowel.
“The next day I was operated on,” she said.
This was perhaps the most difficult part of Sue's cancer journey, waking up from surgery with a stoma bag.
“The biggest thing was getting used to the stoma,” she said.
A stoma bag is a bag connected to the intestine to collect faeces and/or urine.
“The stoma nurses were very good.”
Sue was then able to begin chemotherapy treatment once again, which is administered at the Peter Copulos Cancer and Wellness Centre in Shepparton.
“I go home to Kyabram then and the nurses just remove it there,” she said.
While Sue said she had responded very well to chemotherapy, she had suffered from several complications throughout her treatment including a blood clot in her PICC line which delivered the chemotherapy through her arm.
“You've just got to keep smiling,” she said of her cancer journey.
“I've had my 11th cycle (of treatment).”
Sue encouraged others who felt a problem to go and see their GP and said she also made sure her children would start screening for the cancer 10 years prior the age at which she had her diagnosis.
*Local patient Sue is currently being supported by Katie Emanuelli at Peter Copulos Cancer and Wellness Centre.