A 28-year-old Queensland woman’s life has been turned upside down after she was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer despite having no family history.
Taylor Battersby, from Emerald – inland from Rockhampton, said she fell really sick in September and was unable to get out of bed, but chalked it up to the flu when it passed two weeks later.
While attending a couple of family weddings a few weeks later, Ms Battersby told Yahoo News Australia she began suffering from bad heartburn and acid reflux.
“It got worse and worse and then I started getting awful cramping in my abdomen and nothing seemed to help – not hot water bottles or Panadol,” she said.
“I let it go for a couple of months. I thought I was stressed and just hadn’t been eating well, but when it didn’t I thought, ‘Okay, I have to see a doctor’.”
The 28-year-old underwent a series of blood tests to rule out Crohn’s disease and Celiac disease, but was called into her doctor’s office a few days later.
She was then directed to take a CT scan at the local hospital emergency room.
Ms Battersby, who had just completed her journalism degree months earlier, said it was after doctors asked for a second CT scan that she really began to worry.
Minutes later, a physician told a shocked Ms Battersby she had a large tumour – seven by five centimetres – almost entirely blocking the middle section of her bowel.
“He walked in and said, ‘We don’t normally tell people this straight away because we need further tests, but it’s pretty undeniable from the size of your tumour that you have cancer’,” she told Yahoo News Australia.
Four days and a helicopter transfer later, she was undergoing surgery in a Mackay hospital, she said, adding she felt like she was in a numb blur because of how quickly things were happening.
“There wasn’t really time to process any of it, which is probably a good thing,” Ms Battersby said.
The cancer was confirmed to be Stage 4C.
‘Family history has to start somewhere’
Ms Battersby told Yahoo News Australia she had no close family members who had been diagnosed with cancer.
“I guess all family history has to start somewhere,” she said.
Because of the aggressiveness and size of the tumour, doctors sent her blood off for genetic testing, which revealed she has Lynch syndrome.
Lynch syndrome is an inherited condition that increases the risk of multiple cancers, including colon and endometrial.
“Doctors estimate that around three out of every 100 colon cancers or endometrial cancers are caused by Lynch syndrome,” according to the Mayo Clinic.
“Lynch syndrome also causes cancers to occur at an earlier age than they might in the general population.”
Because of this, Ms Battersby said her physician explained her tumour had probably only been growing for a year, but was so large because of her body’s lack of resistance.
“It’s very overwhelming when you’re told that because it means for the rest of your life you’re going to have to be on constant alert and have every test done under the sun and be constantly monitoring to make sure you pick up any other cancers early,” she said.
Months of chemotherapy was able to remove the rest of her bowel tumour, but it suddenly stopped working.
A CT scan showed Ms Battersby now has two cancerous lymph nodes in her abdominal cavity and one on the stem of her lungs.
“It was devastating. I felt like I had gone through months of treatment for nothing. It just wasn’t what we were expecting,” she said.
The determined 28-year-old and her fiancé, Joe Kirkwood, who proposed on Christmas Day after she was released from the hospital, will now take time off work and head to Brisbane so she can start a promising trial in a month.
The Stage 3B clinical trial is testing how medication for skin cancers treat metastasised bowel cancer.
“I’m incredibly lucky that this trial was available and that I meet the criteria,” she said.
Friends and family are raising money to help the young couple as they face their upcoming battle.
They plan to get married in May 2021 and Ms Battersby said the wedding had given her and Joe something to look forward to and plan.
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