Participants discuss their surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Each persons situation is different as were their treatment options. Participants share some of the side effects and also their feelings as they progressed through the treatments.

Acknowledgements

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BOWEL CANCER Undergoing treatment 

Julie - The very first thing I did was I had to go straight from the colonoscopy to my GP. I had some blood tests to make sure my liver and kidney function were OK so I could go and have a CT scan to make sure that everything was working fine for the surgery.

Then I went to see the surgeon. I got an appointment with him the following week and he explained to me that the best way to go, as the tumour was up the very top, was to take the whole lot out and I had a total colectomy.

So following that I had to find out whether I was going to have chemo or not.
It was decided that given my age and how big the tumour was that chemotherapy would be the best option just to give me the best, moving forward.

David - I think it was a Saturday morning I just went in and you know, you get interviewed and dressed appropriately and then it all goes from there.
Anaesthetist, the doctor, there was an assistant surgeon you know, we all have a bit of a laugh about it and then you go to sleep and then you wake up and the particular hospital had had various wards that you went through on the way out depending on how long it was after the operation and whether they needed to keep an eye on you and how often they needed to prod you and how much pain medication one might have needed along the way to do it.

Ian - Oh the bowel surgery I went in the day before I had the operation the following morning I believe it's a five and a half hour operation that I had. Luckily it was key hole, so I had five little holes in my torso.

I didn't have a bag so... and the surgeon said, when I came out of recovery, “The operation went great - got it all.” From there back to the ward.
Tests came back a couple of days later on the lymph nodes and that had traces of cancer in it so that meant that I had to down the track go to the chemotherapy.

Lynne - It was a bit daunting. It is a huge operation and the staff they do everything they can to help you. You help yourself you have to help yourself and by doing that they are ever so more helpful for you.

Andrew - I went and saw a specialist in chemotherapy and radiation therapy. They said that I didn't need to have chemo or radio which I felt relieved because I wasn't really interested in having either of those.

After that I then saw a surgeon who detailed to me what would happen during surgery, what I could expect.

Following that, I had the surgery. Woke up with a stoma which I wasn't expecting because I had asked him if I would require a stoma and he said that I would not. But there were complications in surgery and the surgery ended up taking about eleven hours.

Lynne - Well even when the decision came to have a bag that had to be my decision I believe. I could have gone into that operation thinking 'OK, I'll come out and I'll just lose some of the bowel and I'll be fine.'

At that stage they thought there was only twenty polyps with the tumour but at the end of it there were eighty polyps. So the decision would have been left to the surgeon. Once he saw all that it would all be gone.

So I felt I needed to empower myself there and where the tumour was and the polyps I just said really I just don't have any choice and I don't want to have to be going back and back and back again.

So it was the decision I made and I've not regretted it. I hate having a bag. I'll be honest, I hate it, but I also love it and it's now become with the boys especially Nanny's farty bag. [laughs] Not that it does. It doesn't but that's what we call it.

Ian - So the first day I had chemo you go in there they plug it in it was supposed to be for every two weeks I think it was. That night, of the first chemo I had a heart attack and had to spend another five, six days in hospital getting that right.

They changed the chemo from fortnightly to weekly supposedly on a different chemo and a lower dose so that extended the chemo from six months to nine months and there was a lot of other side effects you kind of like, got to learn you know, the day you had the chemo you arrive, because they give you anti-nausea drugs the next day you are absolutely terrible. Nausea, vomiting, lethargic, and by the time you got to the sixth, seventh day you were great again only to repeat the whole process again.

Julie - I had twelve cycles of chemotherapy. I'd go in for fifty hours a fortnight. The first eight or so hours I had to actually spend in hospital going through a drip and then I'd take the bottle around my neck and I'd take it home.

Now, with having young children they didn't really understand what was happening so this bottle we gave it a name. His name was Roberto. Roberto would go with us everywhere. We'd take Roberto shopping he'd sleep with us he'd have a shower and we'd joke that we were going to pick Roberto up or take Roberto back.

It wasn't as bad as what I thought it was going to be, I had these visions of it being absolutely horrific.

I was going to be sick all the entire time, I was going to lose my hair, I was going to be grumpy and cranky, and I was going to be sick all the time. And it was right to a certain degree that yes, I was sick a few times but I found that during those fifty hours of having that chemotherapy I could go shopping, I could have a shower I could cook dinner for my children. It was when I had it disconnected and probably about 48 hours later I'd crash for three days and couldn't get out of bed.

I just couldn't really do anything. My kids would come in and read me a book they'd watch a movie with me, they'd talk with me, so that got me through those three days.
About the fourth cycle I noticed that my hair was sort of starting to thin out. I was very itchy. I sort of looked at my hair and I was missing pieces of about the size of a fifty-cent piece all over so my daughter got the razor out and she shaved my head. So that was amazing for a three year old to be a part of that and I wanted her to see that it wasn't going to affect me my hair is my hair it will grow back.

Andrew - During all this you had your periods of times where it was just “I cannot cope with this any more.” The trick is you've just got to try and look past that. Look to what you're going to do remind yourself of what's happened in the past where you've come how much further you've progressed since the last time you broke down and were upset. And it's just trying to always find the bright side and use it to motivate yourself to get done what you need to get done.

 

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Last updated: July 2018

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