I'm sorry to tell you, but it's cancer...

Being told I have bowel cancer a couple of weeks ago has literally turned my life upside down....

It was Wednesday the 27th November 2019, a week after my colonoscopy. I had received a call from my gastrointestinal specialist a few days beforehand asking me to come in and see her. Now, i will admit that i had a tiny yet fleeting moment where i thought, 'Hmmm, this doesn't sound good', but i just as quickly dismissed it, thinking that she needed to give me the details of my new specialist team that would be looking after me in my new area. I was excited to finally be relocating to the beautiful wine country of NSW the following week; a dream that hubby and I have had for a long while.

A bit of background about me and all things wonderfully pooey! I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at age 19, and have been on a rollercoaster of surgeries, medication, emergency hospital visits, routine invasive tests for the better half of three decades.

I had to have a subtotal colectomy and ileosigmoid anastomosis at the age of 21; in plain english- I had my large intestine removed and they connected the small bowel to the rectum so i didn't have to have a colostomy bag(which was my absolute greatest fear! ...more on that later....)

The Crohn's is in the rectum and has given me grief for over 20 years, but I was so grateful not to have the bag that putting up with the bleeding, constant abdominal pain and swelling was just what i was used to. My specialist team over the last seven years have been amazing and i was coping and having a much better quality of life, until I wasn't.

In the last year I noticed that the swelling and pain was getting progressively worse, I was exhausted so much easier and I was feeling so much pressure from the intensity at work. I have worked in the finance industry for over twenty five years and these last five years in particular have been gruelling. Interstate travel, long hours, early starts in the city and all while raising a family and keeping as fit as possible. Exhausting schedule and my body was paying for it.

The symptoms were becoming more pronounced and then I began noticing blood in my bowel movements, now to be clear it didnt send me running to my care team because this wasn't anything unusual, or so I thought.

The day of my colonoscopy, whilst I was being wheeled into theatre my specialist asked me how i had been feeling and i remember saying that 'I didn't feel great and that my tummy was always swollen and the bleeding was consistent, but I was flat out at work and organising the relocation so I had a lot on my plate which was probably why this was happening'.............

Waking up I was quite groggy, doc said that she had removed some polyp's and they were sending them to be biopsied....O.K cool, sounds good.....no concern or thought of cancer crossed my mind.... I had these colonoscopies every three years and they always send stuff off to pathology, no news flash here I thought! And on I went with my week.....

That was Wednesday 20th November......

Monday 25th November i receive a call from her office asking me to see the doc this coming Wednesday. Now I didn't ask any questions, like I mentioned before, apart from the split second 'Uh-Oh' moment I thought this will be about my referral to my new hospital and care team.

Wednesday 27th November- Kicked off my day with a 6 A.M sweat session at the gym with hubby, a celery juice and bit of packing before heading to the hospital to see the doc.

10am- A surprisingly good almond latte at the hospital's cafe.

10.30am- We go in to see the doc. She does the routine weigh in, small chit chat and then my world imploded....

Doc: "Sabrina, do you remember when you were waking up, you might recall that I mentioned that we had taken a sample from a growth that was sitting on the rectal wall?"(or something close to that)

Me: 'Yep, I remember you saying that to me'

Doc: 'We got the results back and I'm sorry to say Sabrina, but it is cancer'

Me: Silence

Hubby: Tears Up

Doc: Tears Up and puts a box of tissues in front of me

Me: Silence

Hubby: 'Doc, what does this mean, what happens next?'

Me: My brain connects to my lips and I start to speak....

'Shit, I have cancer!? Are you sure?'..........

{Doc, Hubby and the all the voices in my head all mix together and I am so alone in that moment. I am hovering and watching this scene from outside my body, it was so eerily surreal, and I cannot believe that I am the star of this show stopping production called....

'What the Actual????'

O.k so that feeling lasted no more than 5 minutes in that room and then I switched to who I essentially am as a person. I am positive, I believe in the power of the mind and that every situation is an opportunity to grow and develop. I chose in that moment that this would not define me, I would strive to inspire myself every single day and if on this journey it helps others, gives comfort, provides humour, uplifts and most importantly i would love myself so much and be my biggest supporter.

The fuzziness and clarity of the situation are competing in my head, but I finally become crystal clear on wanting to understand what the next steps will be.

I am referred to a colorectal surgeon but not before I get handed another bomb and that is that I will most definitely need surgery to remove the cancer and as it is so low in the rectum, there will be no chance of saving any of it and I will need a stoma!

Then the tears started to flow. It has always been something that has scared me.

The last couple of weeks I have had multiple scans and tests to check whether the cancer has spread to anywhere else in my body, and it seems localised.

It is a T4 tumour which means that it has spread to the 4 layers of the bowel wall (plain english terms). The stage is not determined until they remove it and test it. I will know more after surgery.

Surgery is booked for the 13th January, next Monday....6 days to go as I write this......It's a big one.

This is what i know:

Surgery will last approx 6 hours, the name of the procedure is a proctocolectomy which means that the rectum, anus and a section of the ilium will be removed and I will then have a permanent stoma. (I will chat a whole lot more on this in my next blog.)

Recovery is huge: 6-8 weeks.

Chemo and Radiation- TBD after surgery.....

I have spent the last two weeks in particular researching everything I can get my hands on in regards to living with a stoma. It has been so uplifting to be able to watch some amazing people on You Tube sharing their stories, giving great advice and understanding this massive change that is coming my way.

So, this is my start to 2020.....grab the popcorn..

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