My name is Katie, and I was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer on December 26, 2019, when I was 28 years old. 2020 has been a crucial year for millions of people, but for me it won’t be the year of COVID-19… it will be the year of my journey with colorectal cancer and the beginning of my new story.
About 6 months before my diagnosis, I had been feeling unwell: stomach cramps, throwing up, trouble going to the toilet. I thought because I’d always struggled with constipation, it was just something to do with that, but a few weeks later I went to the doctor. My doctor confirmed my self-diagnosis of constipation and gave me some Movicol (a laxative) to help me.
A week later I still wasn’t able to go to the toilet, so I went back to the doctor with extreme pain in my stomach and back. This time, the doctor gave me laxatives. Three days later, I was still unable to go, even with the laxatives and sachets. I went back a third time and had an iron transfusion and got yet another prescription for laxatives.
It was the week before Christmas and I felt like I was physically dying, but I was trying my hardest to not let it affect my 8-year-old son Taylan. I went back to the doctor and looked at him and said “Are you sure I don’t have bowel cancer? I’ve researched and all the signs are there.” He replied that I was too young for that type of cancer.
I had taken myself into the Launceston General Hospital, and after waiting for hours, the nurse came back and said “You don’t come to the hospital for constipation!” I was at loss. I wasn’t eating, I threw up what I did eat, and I was in physical pain and would cry every night in pain. The day after Christmas (or Boxing Day 2019 in Australia) I took my son to the airport so he could go spend the Christmas holidays with his dad. When I came home I called the ambulance. I begged the doctors to please listen, but they didn’t believe I hadn’t been to the toilet for weeks and said that I couldn’t be alive if that was the case.
Just then, a wonderful doctor came in and demanded a CT scan straight away. After the scan I waited in the room with my partner. An hour or so passed.. and the doctor came in and said “I’m so sorry to tell you this, but you have cancer and we need to do surgery straight away.” I had a tumor in my colon bigger than my first, and it had gone all the way into the muscle.
With chemotherapy came all the reactions you hear people suffer from when they do chemo. Because of the type of chemotherapy I was having, my fingers and toes were super sensitive to the cold. Even picking up a butter knife from the drawer felt like a thousand pins pricking my fingers. My son would make me toast, grab things from the fridge or freezer, and turn on the shower for me, etc. He was my second set of hands for anything that involved cold temperatures. I live alone with just my son and what a trooper he is! I adore his strength.
I’ve been done with chemotherapy for 6 weeks, and I’ve had a colonoscopy where the doctors removed a polyp. Since my diagnosis, my anxiety has been heightened, and I have nerve damage in my toes and tips of my fingers.
That said, I’m thankful. I’m thankful that that particular doctor listened to me when no one else would, and I’m thankful for my family and especially for my son. Taylan is doing great, and he can see that I’m getting better. We manage. I’m amazed with my own strength. But I’m also scared every single day.
If something doesn’t seem right, keep pushing to get the right treatment and attention. I admire all the love and strength shown through the Colon Cancer Coalition and wish everyone that has or is going through this the most love and support!