A single mum who thought she had a ‘tummy bug’ was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer after visiting her doctor.
Sophie Edwards was diagnosed with rectal adenocarcinoma – a form of bowel cancer – on June 14, 2022 despite having no family history of the disease and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
The 34-year-old manager from Adelaide told FEMAIL she noticed a change bowel habits 12 weeks before visiting a doctor, and at first physicians were dismissive of her symptoms.
Since then the young mum has been on an emotional rollercoaster and says this time last year she was a ‘completely different person’.
Single mum Sophie Edwards (right) was diagnosed with stage 3 rectal adenocarcinoma – a form of bowel cancer – on June 14, 2022 despite having no family history of the disease and maintaining a healthy lifestyle
The 34-year-old manager from Adelaide told FEMAIL she noticed a change bowel habits 12 weeks before visiting a doctor, and at first physicians were dismissive of her symptoms
Since then the young mum has been on an emotional rollercoaster and says this time last year she was a ‘completely different person’
‘I needed the toilet more and more frequently to the point where I started having accidents – which was very embarrassing – then had severe intense pain,’ she said.
‘I was extremely unwell; It prompted me to go see a doctor because I couldn’t eat or drink anything either.’
Because of the pain her mum took her to the closest local GP who unfortunately dismissed her symptoms.
‘The doctor told me to take gastro tablets, but mum advocated for testing,’ Sophie said and completed a stool sample.
Surprisingly blood tests didn’t detect anything sinister.
When she was able to get in touch with her regular doctor who reviewed the tests, ‘microscopic’ amounts of blood were detected in the stools.
Sophie then met with a gastric entomologist for a CT scan that ‘detected something’ but at the time specialists couldn’t determine what it was.
‘It all happened so quickly; it took 10 days from first going to the doctor to being diagnosed,’ she said.
On June 14 a colonoscopy found the 7cm tumour and confirmed it was cancerous.
When she was told the dreadful news, Sophie said she felt ‘completely numb and overwhelmed’ and immediately thought of her seven-year-old son Jaxon
After the procedure Sophie and her mum were patiently waiting for the results from the specialist.
‘When you hear the word “cancer” you automatically think you’re going to die. You have no idea what path is going to show up before you,’ she said.
‘I felt completely numb and overwhelmed, and immediately I thought of my seven-year-old son Jaxon.
‘Mum was beside me completely shellshocked and wished it was her going through this and not me.’
It was also ‘torturous’ waiting to confirm if it had spread elsewhere – which it hadn’t.
Prior to having treatment Sophie saw a fertility specialist in mid-July for an IVF egg collection and 11 eggs were successfully retrieved to be frozen
After the egg collection she dived straight into treatment which were ‘intense’. After 25 rounds of radiotherapy it felt as if ‘acid had been tipped into her abdominal’ and was left in ‘so much pain’. For this type of cancer Sophie didn’t need surgery
Prior to having treatment Sophie saw a fertility specialist in mid-July for an IVF egg collection and 11 eggs were successfully retrieved to be frozen.
‘During the whole process I felt empowered because I knew it was something I wanted to do; knowing I had control of the situation when everything else was out of my control was a huge relief,’ she said.
‘I found the process to be beautiful in what was a really depressing time for me. But after retrieving the eggs I felt ready to tackle the cancer.’
She dived straight into radiation treatments which were ‘intense’.
‘You don’t feel the effects until you’ve finished and I was taking chemotherapy tablets morning and night too,’ Sophie said.
After 25 rounds of radiotherapy it felt as if ‘acid had been tipped into her abdominal’ and was left in ‘so much pain’.
‘The after effects were awful and horrific, but it had to be done,’ she said.
During a three-week break from treatment Sophie was hospitalised for five days after experiencing ‘severe, unbearable pain’ from her body processing the stress of the treatment.
For this type of cancer Sophie didn’t need surgery.
During the entire ordeal one of the hardest aspect has been explaining it all to her son (right). Her final round of chemotherapy will be on December 26 right after Christmas
During the entire ordeal one of the hardest aspect has been explaining it all to her young son.
‘I tried explaining to him why I’m so sick, which was very hard and heartbreaking. No child should see their parent so unwell,’ she said, adding: ‘But I can’t protect him from that.’
Jaxon asks questions like ‘why did this happen to you?’ and ‘why aren’t you getting better?’ which pulls on Sophie’s heartstrings as a mum.
Physically some days Sophie can’t get out of bed but takes the good with the bad and has support from family.
She said she is also extremely grateful for the wonderful doctors we have in Australia, and estimates Medicare has covered roughly $40,000 in medical fees.
‘I’ve paid around $8,000 out of pocket and wouldn’t have been able to afford the whole medical bill if it wasn’t covered by Medicare,’ she said.
Symptoms of bowel cancer:
– Change in bowel habits with diarrhoea, constipation or the feeling of incomplete emptying
– Thin or loose bowel movements
– Blood or mucous in stools
– Abdominal pain, bloating and cramping
– Anal or rectal pain
– Lump in the anus or rectum
– Unexplained weight loss
– Unexplained anaemia
Source: Cancer Council Australia
Now she has chemotherapy via an IV port in her collarbone every two weeks over a three-day period for 18 weeks.
Sophie and doctors are hoping to completely eliminate the cancer.
‘I’m waiting to finish my treatment then will have a scope in the next two weeks to see if the tumour has disappeared. But it’s all been going very well,’ she said.
Sophie’s final round of chemotherapy will be on December 26 right after Christmas.
‘It can be really lonely time at times, because everyone around wants to help but there’s only so much they can do,’ she said.
Sophie has been sharing her story with friends, family and others on social media in hope others won’t ignore symptoms.
‘If you think something is wrong, go get checked. Don’t feel embarrassed talking about your bowels with doctors – they’re there to help,’ she said.