Rectal Cancer Diagnosis, This article is about my own journey of rectal cancer.From diagnosis, treatments and outcome. My experience
Could It Be Cancer?
If you are sat thinking, 'Could it be cancer?', then maybe it is time for you to make an appointment with a doctor and get yourself checked out.
I was diagnosed with stage 3 rectal cancer after being told by a doctor that I had haemorrhoids (piles) I am sharing my journey and what I have learned about life through this experience, in the hopes that it inspires another who is sitting with their worries and fears that they might have rectal or bowel cancer, to seek medical advice.
I want to reach out to those who are ignoring changes in their toilet habits and hoping the problem will just go away like I hoped my problem would go away. I want to reach out to those who are too scared or embarrassed to be examined by a doctor like I was too embarrassed to be examined.
In April of 2018, I noticed specks of bright red blood in the toilet bowl and on my tissue. Family members told me not to worry as the blood was most likely coming from internal haemorrhoids. (piles) 'They run in the family, I was told. I tried to ignore the bleeding from my so-called internal piles but quietly worried that I could have cancer. And then there was a change in my normal bowel habits. I started experiencing constipation, a bloated stomach, nausea, and I was noticing that there was blood in my stools as well as the toilet bowl.
Haemorroids, Piles or Cancer?
In September 2018, I made an appointment to see the doctor because I was losing blood every time I went to the toilet. When I finally allowed myself to be examined by the doctor and told that I had nothing to worry about, just internal piles. I took the prescription for Haemorrhoid cream with a smile on my face and with a sense of relief. I remember thinking that I could have saved myself all that worry and stress if I had gone to the doctor sooner, 'lesson learned', I thought. The examination was over and done quickly, so there was nothing to be embarrassed about.
The prescribed cream the doctor gave me for piles had a hard plastic nozzle attached to the tube. I was supposed to insert the nozzle up my backside and squeeze to get the cream internally. I could not insert the nozzle up my backside because it was too painful to insert. I did not want to bother my doctor with piles, so I hoped they would get better without treatment.
Many people experience hemorrhoids or piles. They are blood vessels that are felt inside or around the anus. Sometimes they feel like they are hanging out of the anal canal. They can be uncomfortable when sitting and they can be itchy and bleed.
If you are reading this article, and have bleeding from the rectum, please see your Dr. now. Any bleeding from the rectum needs investigating by a doctor, not you, your friend, or a family member. Remember, bleeding from the rectum is the common symptom shared by cancer and piles.
Diagnosis of Rectum Cancer
In November 2018, I was still bleeding from my back passage and went back to the doctor to admit that I could not use the nozzle of the cream she had prescribed months earlier. I was asking for a different form of pile cream. She did not examine me but immediately referred me to the cancer clinic. I had an appointment with the cancer doctor at the end of the week. The consultant examined me and found a lump that was not piles.
He said he was 99.9 percent sure that the lump he had found was cancer. A short time later, I had an MRI, CT scan, blood tests, endoscopy, colonoscopy, and biopsy and a diagnosis of stage 3 rectal cancer.
Colorectal Cancer Treatment Planning and Treatment
Colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer, colon cancer, or rectal cancer, is any cancer that affects the colon and the rectum.
After diagnosis, they introduced me to the Colorectal team, the Consultant Oncologist, and the Macmillan nurses, who offer information, practical advice, and support for all diagnosed with cancer.
They gave me a tour around the cancer unit where I would receive radiotherapy, and there they introduced me to the staff who would have dealings with me through the next few weeks of my treatment at the unit.
I signed a Patient Agreement for Systemic Anti-Cancer Therapy. I would have 25 treatments of radiotherapy where an external beam would aim directly at the rectum for a few minutes a day from Monday to Friday. At the weekend, I could rest my body and start again on Monday.
I was advised of the side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy and given anti-sickness and anti-diarrhea tablets. I felt bombarded with a mound of paperwork and advice leaflets to read, which I tried to read but remember little of what I was told or read.
They put two small tattoos on my backside and acted as a guide for the beams. Having the tattoos did not hurt.
Chemotherapy treatment was in tablet form and taken twice a day.
Chemotherapy is a drug used to treat cancer by killing cancer cells. Chemotherapy medication aims to stop cancer cells from reproducing and spreading to other parts of the body.
I had my first dose of chemotherapy and first radiotherapy on Monday 7th January 2019. There was no discomfort and radiotherapy did not hurt at all in the beginning.
A few days into the treatment and I felt traumatised by the amount of pain I felt. The skin between my legs was burnt and weeping and I was in pain when I tried to use the toilet. Just passing water was terrifying and left me screaming in pain. I could not believe how much pain I was experiencing and remember telling my Doctor that I did not feel able to continue with the treatment. They gave me liquid morphine that helped a little and I used it every time I needed the loo, and I still cried out in pain.
I was truly grateful when the treatment came to an end and I was finally able to ring the bell three times, which told others in the clinic that I had completed my treatment and everyone applauded.
How A Diagnosis Of Cancer Affected Me
When the doctor first said the word cancer I was so scared. My first question after diagnosis was "Am I going to die?" I wanted to cry but I couldn't because I could feel my daughter who was holding my hand and I knew she was shaking and sobbing. I held on to my emotions until I was left on my own for the first time. Once alone I fell apart.
I was absolutely terrified and I had no one that could help me and give me some kind of comfort. I remember being on my knees, sobbing and crying out for someone, God, anyone to help me. As I sobbed and cried out for help, I heard a little voice inside me say, "No one can help you now. Now you have to believe in yourself and help yourself by giving yourself the love you need". At that moment I was overwhelmed with the feeling of love and it was a wonderful life-changing experience. Cancer taught me all about self-love and now I am truly grateful for the experience.
For anyone going through this or any kind of cancer, my heart reaches out to you.
The End Of Radiotherapy Ringing The Bell
Activities that Helped Me Cope
For those who have been diagnosed with Rectal cancer, or any cancer, I urge you to set goals for when treatment has finished. Write down your goals and read them daily. Imagine daily how it would feel to achieve your goals.
Do not leave the creation of goals until you get a diagnosis like I did. Life is short so enjoy it. Love yourself, love others, do what you love to do and be happy. The reason you are experiencing life is to love, feel loved and be happy.
I use positive affirmations and repeat to myself as often as possible I am health, wealth and success. Research has found that if you repeat something to yourself over and over, even if you know what you are repeating is not true, the subconscious will eventually accept it as the truth and your life will reflect that. Find an affirmation you are comfortable with and whenever you feel bad, repeat silently to yourself your chosen affirmation.
I try and walk a few minutes a day because I find the fresh air and nature relaxing. If you are having treatment right now, try walking even if it is just for a few minutes. Take a few deep breathes of fresh air and exhale any negative emotion. Focusing on your breathing will quieten down the mind and it will help you relax
Find guided visualisation videos on YouTube. Do whatever it takes to keep yourself feeling nice and relaxed. Try to keep your imagination busy by thinking about what makes you feel good about yourself? Close your eyes now and just imagine what life would look like and feel like if you were doing something right now that you love doing.
Read inspirational books. Feel inspired.
Be kind to yourself. Pamper yourself even if it is just a long soak in the bath.
Eat well and take care of your body.
Accept your emotions and speak to someone or a trusted love one about how you feel. Or, journal about how you feel.
Keep a gratitude diary or journal. Find as many things in your day that you were grateful for and write them down.
Spend time surrounded by uplifting people or doing what you enjoy doing.
Try meditation, yoga or some other way of deep relaxation.
Listen to music and dance if you feel like it.
Most of all, LOVE YOURSELF!
Where I Am Today
Because of the diagnosis I am in a better place than ever. I love and believe in myself. I have found the courage to trust in myself and to do the things in life I want to do, that I love to do.
I feel positive about myself and my future goals and I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to share my story.
I had a scan recently and my tumour has gone and I am truly grateful for that,
Feel free to ask questions or leave a comment in the box below.
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Louise Elcross (author) from Preston on August 19, 2019:
Thanks Susan. I hope I have not scared you in anyway. I had a bad reaction to treatment but thankfully not everyone does have a bad reaction. I hope all goes well for you.
Susan on August 19, 2019:
I have been diagnosed with rectal cancer had 2 treatments of chemo.... with chemo medication waiting for radiation therapy... thank you for sharing your story
Louise Elcross (author) from Preston on August 13, 2019:
Thanks Carolyn. My intention is to encourage others to at least have a bowel test. Especially those with symptoms like I had. Thanks for reading.
Carolyn Fields from South Dakota, USA on August 12, 2019:
Thank you for sharing. I'm sure this will help others face their fears.