Simone Georgiou – Bowel cancer patient
I was married in November 2013. It was such a great day!
But nine months later, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. So just over a year after walking down the aisle I’m the first patient to have major surgery at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and the first patient in the new Intensive Care Unit. I have to wear a bag for the rest of my life because my bowel is gone.
But I’m looking at what I can do with my life that’s positive and the way my story might help others.
Bowel cancer is the hidden one. It’s unsexy. Everyone knows about breast cancer, but no one talks about bowel cancer. I have since found it is the second biggest cancer killer in Australia. If you get it early enough, it’s so much more curable. I think back, and I think if only I’d known the danger and the signs. If there’s anything I can do just to help even one person…
In my case, the signs were actually there but I just didn’t know. There were warning signals during our honeymoon in Mexico – but they were disguised because I had managed to pick up a bowel parasite that was treated successfully with antibiotics when we got home.
Then I fell pregnant, and with pregnancy you have even more changes with your bowel. But after I miscarried the problems continued. My GP got me to have a check-up and, even knowing my family history, everyone was saying: ‘Don’t worry, it’ll just be Crohn’s Disease or gastro or ulcers’.
When the diagnosis came, even my specialist was surprised, given my age at 39. I wonder if that was my Dad, holding my hand, making me go back… these things that kept on coming up. He died of melanoma, my father. If I hadn’t lost my baby, I would now be dead.
Straight away, as soon as we found out, my husband and I began a round of IVF. We have three little embryos frozen, waiting. We’re waiting for the right time to be carried by a surrogate who has selflessly offered. Obviously I now can’t carry a child. And it was overwhelming to have this offer. How can you ever thank someone enough for something like this? It’s just so… so big.
So I’m now through the first round of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and the removal of my entire large bowel and a full hysterectomy to prevent any recurrence of the cancer. Lying in my bed recuperating from surgery, I’ve had plenty of time to think. I hope good things can come from really bad things.
I want to urge younger people to have a check-up if they have a history of cancer in their family.
My grandfather and his siblings died from bowel cancer. My father would have been a carrier of Lynch Syndrome, which predisposes carriers to bowel cancer.
I suppose I always knew I would get cancer because my family has cancer on both sides, but not so young, not so young as this. I thought I would be older. There aren’t many younger people with cancer, and it’s been quite isolating. You just feel alone. Maybe I can help someone feel not so alone…
I want to do something to support other younger people who get cancer. Under 50, it’s not something you expect. If there’s a way I can make it a little bit easier, to make other people feel they’re not the only one out there, I want to do something, even if it’s just saving one person from this.
But going through this so young does change your outlook and perspective on life.
I often hear people complain about their bad day at work or that they’re unable to lose some extra kilos, and it’s sad that they don’t know how lucky they are, they have this amazing thing called ‘health’. I also used to take that for granted, but never again. It’s the little things at the moment that make a big difference.
It’s little things like having your own room when I was at Lifehouse, and a little balcony and an amazing view. I took some beautiful photos of the sun coming up in the mornings.
I think the main thing is that the whole philosophy of Chris O’Brien was providing a wellness centre rather than that hospital feeling. That’s exactly what he’s provided. You’re actually going in there to get well, and you don’t feel like you’re in hospital. It gives you a mental edge. It’s a special little bubble to help you with your recovery and to heal better.