Your health: Dou­ble whammy

Olivia Row­lands, 29, from St An­drews, won’t be de­feated

Pick Me Up! - - CONTENTS -

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!

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