In March 2017, at the age of 30, I was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer. I had major surgery in April 2017 to remove four tumours and my colon, leaving me with a permanent ileostomy. I remained in hospital for three weeks, where I was nil by mount for ten days post-op with ileus bowel (my digestive system 'shut down').
I returned home to gain some weight and after seven weeks I started chemotherapy, I was about 43kg. The morning after my chemo I had a seizure induced by the medication and was taken into A & E Resus, before being admitted to the oncology ward. 24 hours later I had a second seizure, followed by a series of four cardiac arrests.
I was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit by the duty crash team and my family were told that they were doing all they could to stabilise me. I remained sedated for three days, until the ITU staff woke me and what had happened started to sink in.
After a week in ITU I was moved back to a ward and ten days later I was discharged from hospital.
I have always loved sport and when I was in ITU, I hoped that I could walk/ jog 5km within a year. At that point I was 42kg and my body was 'crippled' by pain and nausea. During CPR four ribs, my sternum and two vertebrae had been fractured, and my scar was still tender. The physios in Intensive Care had me walking very short distances and cycling for a couple of minutes on static pedals. I had a morphine pump in my hand!
After returning home, I suffered sickness for months and despite my best efforts really struggled to put and weight on! I started walking- less than 50 metres, once a day at first. And very slowly increased the distance until I walked my first kilometre in September. I started swimming and cycling post-op in August and jogged my first kilometer in November.
I gradually built up all the distances and completed my first Sprint distance triathlon on 1st April 2018. In September 2018 I entered my first ever half marathon, a life dream made possible by my stoma after years of ulcerative colitis.
Nobody wants to hear the words: "you've got cancer". For me, 2017 was a very dark and scary time! I hit rock bottom mentally and physically, 'losing everything' I had. Using sport not only helped my physical recovery but it also boosted me mentally. I felt that I was achieving something, despite being unable to work, drive and perform normal day to day tasks. There is an increasing amount of evidence to show the benefits of exercise in cancer patients, which is a bonus! For me, sport is an escape, I forget about my cancer diagnosis, hospital appointments and my stoma, I feel free!