written by her twin sister, Emily.
cancer: Bowel cancer
Date Diagnosed: 2018
Location: New South Wales
In January last year, my identical twin sister (29 years of age that year) Christina, was experiencing pain in her stomach all day. When I arrived home she was still experiencing pain and we made her attend the hospital thinking perhaps it was her appendix.
The hospital did an ultrasound and couldn't see anything but fluid. They questioned ‘colitis' and said perhaps a cyst burst, although there was none present. They sent her home and advised if pain persists to then come back. When the pain became worse in February, she went to her GP who looked at her ultrasounds, ordered blood and stool tests and called rapid access to order a colonoscopy, to query if she perhaps had Crohn's. (never suspecting bowel cancer). The tests came back, and the GP asked her to go on iron tablets as she was iron deficient, anemic .
As Christina awaited her scopes, which weren't booked in until April, she was still sick; vomiting nearly every weekend, cramping etc. and in a lot of pain. Christina then ended up in the hospital again after vomiting blood on 30th March (one week before the scopes). As she was due back in a week, they discharged her with some medication for pain and bloating. The day of her preparation, for her scopes (cleanse day), Christina started vomiting and the cleanse was not working. She ended up in the emergency department of the hospital at2am, still vomiting which we later found out was due to blockage from a tumour. A tumour was leaving only a small hole for anything to pass through.
When Christina had her scopes, a tumour was found and it was said to be cancerous (confirmed by testing later). Surgery was booked to remove a tumour and a temporary stoma was placed. The cancer was confirmed as Stage 4. It had spread to Christina's pelvic area including her ovaries and uterus.
It was recommended that Christina have a surgical procedure called Peritoneal HIPEC in September in Sydney. While waiting for the surgery, Christina received chemo tablets and IV infusions. During chemotherapy, Christina did experience some side effects, largely neuropathy, ‘first bite' pain which is experienced with eating and drinking certain food and fluids, feeling the cold with associated pain, and nausea.
As a distraction, I decided to join Dry July and raise funds for the hospital where Christina was having her treatment. We managed to raise nearly $10,000, with Dry July matching our donation and receiving a further grant. We sold multiple boxes of Bowel cancer Ribbons and are now planning to hold a Ball for Bowel cancer next year.
Christina's HIPEC surgery was ‘successful' with the doctors believing they have removed all cancer. Unfortunately, they had to remove her reproductive organs but were able to reverse the Stoma. Christina has started her chemo tablets again and is awaiting confirmation regarding fluid on her lungs before going further with infusion chemotherapy.
We are also using this ‘shit' time in our lives as a chance to bring much-needed awareness to bowel cancer in the younger generations. Bowel cancer, stool tests, ‘number twos' are such a taboo topic in a lot of generations, but mainly the younger, and especially males. Statistics show that cases of bowel cancer in young people is on the rise and if caught early it is treatable. However, that said, due to the number of cases that are not caught in time, bowel cancer is the second highest cancer killer in Australia. It needs much more public awareness.
We really strongly recommend anyone experiencing any stomach issues please go see a doctor and if you are unhappy with the comments or results you receive, please don't be afraid to seek a second opinion or get a colonoscopy referral. We also would love if younger generations could band together and remind their parents and loved ones, over the age of 45, to do their stool tests or get a colonoscopy. It could seriously save a life! Obviously being an identical twin, with siblings, we all now have taken part and had our own tests to ensure that we are not experiencing cancer growth.
Understandably, Christina is not happy about the cards she has been dealt with. Yet, she has such a great attitude which has been helped by our great network of support. Christina is such a tough cookie and is always trying to look on the bright and positive side of everything. No one her age should have to think about the rocky road of cancer.
No one wants to hear ‘you have cancer!
Being young and recently married, it's hard to think about the possibility of dying and not being able to have kids of your own. It is overwhelming for anyone and especially at the age of only 29.
Christina is such a trooper and keeps ‘rolling with the punches. Together, Christina and I are doing what we can to raise awareness of Bowel cancer, especially in young people, as much as possible.