August 2018 was at times I feel like the best month of my life. It was the month that saved my life. August last year, at the age of 38 I got diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. This was after exactly a year of doing all sorts of tests for my stomach pain and blood in stools. No doctors suspected it was bowel cancer, as apparently, being a healthy, young female, who eats well, exercise daily, of a healthy weight and of my ethnic background has a very minimal chance of developing colon cancer. After surgery which removed 30cm of my colon (sigmoid) and six months of chemo (eight rounds), blood tests, colonoscopy and a CT scan later, I got given the all clear now. I was told that I need to be closely monitored, with blood tests every three months, colonoscopy and a CT scan every year for the next five years.
The issue that I'm facing is that, though I've been through hell and back, now that I've started going back to work, people at my work say that I don't look like I've had cancer. I know that looks can be deceiving, and most of the side effects I experience to date are invisible. My hair didn’t fall out, it only thinned out, since I had thick hair, it is not noticeable. I gained my weight back (in fact put on additional weight) due to capecitabine. Capecitabine caused my skin to be very thin and peel off (people say that I look like I've been on holiday). I find it hard being at work (though I love my job) due to the stigma associated with how a cancer survivor should look like. Surgery and oxaliplatin has caused my bowel habits to be very erratic. Sometimes in the train and in the middle of meetings I need to run to the toilet, other days I feel very constipated which results in headaches. Neuropathy on my feet means I can't stand for long periods of times, so crowded trains makes it difficult to commute. Five months after finishing chemo, I'm still very tired. Tiredness comes very unexpectedly and some days I feel dizzy. I'm very lucky that my work has given me a flexibility of working from home for couple of days a week on a return to work plan. The days I work from home, I feel completely ok, but days that I go back to work, I feel anxiety kicks in, on what other people say to me and I feel fake at times, though I wish they could have seen me going through surgery and chemo and wish if they only could see the "invisible" side effects and the emotional trauma I'm left with.
Has anybody ever experienced this? that people tell you, you don't look like you've had cancer or gone through chemo? On top of having to live with the fact of having gone through stage 3 cancer, having to experience this is very demoralising and any assistance anyone could give me, would much appreciated!!
... View more
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.