Your health: Double whammy
Olivia Rowlands, 29, from St Andrews, won’t be defeated
Clutching my stomach, I cried out in pain as I walked out of the school gates early again. It was last March, and being sent home from my primary-school teaching job had become a regular event.
My problems had started over a year earlier, with constipation and diarrhoea.
I’d also been suffering from searing stomach pains and frequent vomiting.
Me and my husband Sam, 28, had decided we wanted to start a family. Then I fell ill.
Desperate to be a mum, I wanted to recover quickly... but doctors couldn’t pinpoint the problem.
Everything from IBS to food intolerance and period pain had been suggested.
But by March last year, my symptoms had worsened, I’d got intense stomach cramps and could barely walk.
After finding blood in my stools, I went online and saw the words bowel cancer.
‘My great-gran died from
I had hope for the future ...then contracted sepsis again
that...’ I mumbled to Sam.
That December, I was referred for a colonoscopy at Ninewells Hospital.
My constant agony was so obvious, the colon specialist was instantly concerned.
‘We’ve found something,’ the specialist told me after.
She was trying to be gentle, but I wanted straight answers. ‘Is it cancer?’ I asked.
‘I think so,’ she replied. My heart sank.
Three days later, I was told that my treatment may affect my ability to have a child.
What if I can never be a mum now? I thought.
A biopsy confirmed that I had stage-three bowel cancer.
I was heartbroken. Days later, I got worse. I was so weak that I couldn’t eat or go to the toilet and my pain shot through the roof.
Scans revealed that I’d contracted sepsis when the 8cm tumour in my bowel had perforated.
‘We must operate to drain the infection,’ a consultant said.
I was taken into theatre on 23 December last year and, while surgeons removed any traces of sepsis, they also fitted me with a stoma bag.
Life-changing – but waking up after surgery with no pain, I knew that it was worth it.
Still determined to be a parent, I had four embryos harvested from my ovaries. This was because, as well as having chemo, the form of radiotherapy I’d be having would affect my ability to carry a child. I also had to have my ovaries removed, to prevent me going into early menopause.
At least if we had some eggs frozen, we could look into surrogacy or other options.
The process gave me hope for the future.
But then I contracted sepsis again.
Treated with antibiotics, in February
I was ready to have the tumour removed.
When I woke up nine hours later, I was thrilled to learn that not only had surgeons removed the cancerous mass, they’d pieced my bowel back together, too!
‘I can have my stoma removed!’ I cried to Sam.
In August this year, I was finally given the all-clear.
In November, I’ll have my stoma removed, and me and Sam are looking into surrogacy. Not even cancer or two rounds of sepsis can stop us from becoming parents!
After having my ovaries removed
My top says it all!