Stage 4 Bowel Cancer – Coming to Terms With My Diagnosis

Stage 4 Bowel Cancer – in coming to terms with my diagnosis,  I found that hearing personal stories from others on a similar journey offers hope and encouragement that doctors seem unwilling of give.  It is my wish that in sharing my own journey through Stage IV bowel cancer and chemotherapy,  you will feel more hopeful about your own future.  At the very least, you may find a sense of peace.

Feeling on Top of the World
Stage 4 Bowel Cancer – Coming to Terms With Diagnosis

In 2014 my marriage of 30 years came to an end.  On many levels, it was a blessing in disguise,  and after much soul-searching and healing, by January of 2016, I was feeling on top of the world!  Physically, emotionally, spiritually …… my life could not have been better.  With a renewed belief in my self,  I quit my job and in March, headed off on a wonderous  month-long journey through exotic India.   

The Initial Diagnosis
Stage 4 Bowel Cancer – Coming to Terms With Diagnosis

January 2016.  Just prior to my trip, very mild post menopausal bleeding saw me heading to the doctor.  Generally a red flag sign of cervical cancer, a subsequent ultrasound and Pap Smear indicated no cause for concern, so we settled for a Curette.  During my month in India the bleeding continued, albeit still light and sporadic.  Upon returning in April, the gynecologist suggested we do a laparoscopic hysterectomy just to be on the safe side, and I didn’t hesitate.  

A week later, the pathology results came in.   Adenocarcinoma of the cervix.  Adenocarcinoma is a less common type of cervical cancer, which develops from the glandular cells and is more difficult to diagnose because it originates higher in the cervix making it more difficult to reach with the brush or spatula used in taking a Pap test.   I was relieved to have opted for the hysterectomy because the threat of Cervical cancer was now gone!  But the pathology didn’t stop there.  They also found metastatic adenocarcinoma of both ovaries.  These cells didn’t belong to the cancer cells found on the cervix.  Those found on the ovaries belonged to a primary somewhere in my body that had now metastasised!  

A CT scan indicated trouble in the bowel.  A week after my hysterectomy (May 9th 2016), I found myself in hospital again, now having a large part of my colon removed (the location of two growths – one of which was the primary).  Due to an obstruction, the surgeon did not venture into my stomach, but he is adamant that the cancer will likely have metastasised to the stomach.  When chemo is finished, he will investigate further.

Three weeks on from my 2 surgeries, on the 1st June 2016, I commenced 6 months of chemotherapy with Folfox.  A PET scan prior to commencement indicated no tumorous masses.  For now, Chemo will take care of those pesky cancer cells making their way through my system microscopically.  Out of sight but not out of mind!   My stomach will require further investigation when chemo is done.  

Prognosis
Stage 4 Bowel Cancer – Coming to Terms With Diagnosis

When first diagnosed with Stage IV bowel cancer, the surgeon told me I had 2-3 years to live.  Possibility 4 with chemotherapy.   I wasn’t prepared to settle for that.  Not when I was feeling so well!   But I get it…. Doctors are all about science and numbers, not individuals, so there was every chance he was wrong about me.    It is my recommendation that if you are initially given a “fatal” diagnosis, find an oncologist who offers more positivity regarding your future course.  In fact, surround yourself with only positive people in your support team!!  Cancer treatment is improving all the time.  There’s a lot more reason to stay positive and hopeful than there use to be.   

Given how healthy I was feeling,  I’ll admit being stumped by the diagnosis and prognosis .  To be honest, I was a little angry at first, and drafted a lengthy letter to God asking her to ‘please explain”.    That moment of self-pity lasted all of 20 minutes, then I was back to calm resolve.  Why me?  Well, frankly, why not me?  

Attitude
Stage 4 Bowel Cancer – Coming to Terms With Diagnosis

I still feel physically healthy and happy with my  life, so I simply can’t feel attached to anything negative concerning the cancer.   Am I ‘fighting this”?  Well… no…. and yes.  Let me explain it this way.   There’s a quote I love… “I prefer to walk for peace rather than march against war.”  There’s a significant but subtle difference in the energy behind those two sentiments, and that’s how I feel about working through my cancer healing journey.  To fight against my cancer simply sounds like a struggle.  Chances are it was my internal struggling that lead to my cancer in the first place.  Why would I want to struggle further?   So,  I’m walking peacefully and calmly towards doing what is necessary to heal, whatever that might be.  

Keeping a healthy diet, exercising, meditating, enjoying life….. all these things make me feel like I’m the one in control – not the cancer.  At the end of the day, my time to exit this earth is Gods decision so why should I waste time thinking I have a say in it.  What I can control is how I choose to live on a day-to-day basis.  I choose happiness.    As I said earlier, the past two years were spent on a very deep healing journey following my marriage breakdown, and my diagnosis has not shaken me from the inner joy which has become an innate part of me.  Expressing heartfelt gratitude is still very much a daily mantra.  More than ever before, I’m at peace.   My spiritual beliefs also hold me in good stead, so if you’d like to read more, you can follow my other blog – Searching For Meaning After Cancer Diagnosis. 

I am also fortunate enough to be surrounded by huge support network of family, friends, neighbours, community.  Having always been so independent and somewhat private in nature, the experience of allowing people ‘in’ is humbling to be sure.   Recent studies in fact are now suggesting that a persons positive road to recovery from any form or ill-health is largely a product of having a strong network of support around them.   If you don’t have people around you to offer same, I would urge you to make use of your local cancer networks or start a local group of your own.  

Understanding your Pathology Report
Stage 4 Bowel Cancer – Coming to Terms With Diagnosis

Oncologist are aware that cancer patients want to play a more active role in the course of treatment.  Knowing what your pathology report actually says will help you ask all the right questions before seeing your oncologist.   I found this thorough web site which explains all the terminology you will find on your bowel cancer pathology report in simple understandable language.  If you’d like to look it up, you can check it out here…
http://www.oncolink.org/types/article.cfm?c=124&id=9584

UPDATE January 2017

On November 9th I finished 6 months of Chemo with Folfox.  I’m fortunate to have endured so few side effects.  Mild neuropathy in tips of fingers, and a metallic taste in my mouth that stretched out for several days towards the end of treatment (due to the accumulative effect).  I had no mouth sores, no nausea, no vomiting, and very little hair thinning.  I exercised up to 2hrs per day (only walking and yoga – I certainly wasn’t interested in heavy gym work or running marathons!) and I believe the exercise kept my energy levels up so that tiredness wasn’t a problem.  Exercise also helped with my emotional well-being.

Two months after finishing chemo (19th December), the bowel surgeon performed a laparoscopic investigation, as he was certain he would find cancer still in my stomach.  After taking samples from several areas, all pathology results came back clear of cancer cells!

By January 4th, all my blood counts are also back into the normal range.

Next week, 15th January,  I’m off to India for 1 month to a Ayurvedic Detox clinic in Kerala to do a Panchakarma Detox.  I’m so excited.  I’ll be writing a blog on this amazing detox experience when I return! 

 Next Blogs

If you’re interested in reading further, follow my blogs –
♥ Recognising Psychological Causes of Cancer and
♥ Searching For Meaning After Cancer Diagnosis.
♥ Chemotherapy Diet

I do hope you’ll walk the path with me and that you’ll find hope and inspiration in my blogs.  Please also feel free to share your own stories of hope.  

Much love to you all ♥
Your humble servant,
Roslyn

footnote:  Dr Peterson is one of the best in the field and I credit my perfect colorectomy to his expertise.

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7 thoughts on “Stage 4 Bowel Cancer – Coming to Terms With My Diagnosis

  1. Belinda Blaik says:

    Dearest Ros, You shared so eloquently what many people are facing. Thank you for your honest, thought provoking and humbling words. I am praying for your swift recovery.

  2. Barbara Goodwin says:

    Ros, as always, your thoughtful nature, strength, spirit and beauty, inside and out, shine through your words.Thank you for sharing your journey.Much love, sunshine and hugs

  3. moira says:

    Thanks for sharing. What an amazing person you are , so inspirational level headed and a wonderful spiritual being. You are also looking absolutley stunning at present. Xox

  4. Janine Quine says:

    Your post was very moving and very promising Ros. It is a journey we are all taking with you. Each of us is sending prayers, meditations & good thoughts to you.

  5. Madonna Corboy says:

    Thanks for sharing this Ros, you are amazing – regards healing – the only path to follow is the one that feels right for you. Sending you love, light and blessings xxx

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