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It was nice to have someone there who understood what I was going through

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Jess, a 27-year-old who grew up in Waiuku, Auckland, has recently celebrated her second clear scan signalling remission after gruelling treatment for Stage 4 colon cancer which has taken her on a rollercoaster ride over the past few years.

An active, independent young woman in her mid-20s, Jess’s diagnosis came completely out of the blue. She was fit and healthy and enjoyed going to the gym, going for walks, and spending time with friends. At the time her diagnosis came she was simply making the most of summer like any regular young person. Jess’s mum passed away when she was 15 and her dad moved to Australia about a year before her diagnosis, so Jess has relied mainly on herself and on the Cancer Society for support.  

In November 2020, Jess started experiencing sharp cramps in her stomach. She knew that “something was off” and thought it might be Crohn’s Disease or a gluten intolerance. She suffered from extreme vomiting and diarrhoea alongside intense pain, and her condition was originally missed by emergency doctors. Then in March of the following year, everything came to a head.

“I was living by myself, and I was in so much pain that I called an ambulance because I thought I might pass out and no one would be there,” Jess explains. “I thought I was being dramatic but as soon as I got to hospital, I needed four blood transfusions because I was anaemic. I had no idea.”

Getting a clear diagnosis was a very drawn-out process for Jess. There were lots of scans and ultrasounds and questions to answer, but after four days in hospital, she heard the word ‘cancer’ for the first time.

“I think because I was young and otherwise healthy, it’s just not what they or I expected. There was a sizeable tumour. No one in my family has had cancer, so I thought initially that my body was faulty.”

After surgery to remove half her large intestine, Jess was up and about and recovering very quickly, a recovery which then came in leaps and bounds, followed by further surgery for a port incision for chemotherapy treatment, which was also effective.

Support from the Cancer Society really helped Jess during this tough time, and her story has a happy ending.

“I had a nurse that would call me every week just to check in with how I was doing and my side effects and if I had any questions. They also sent me a lot of information about what the Cancer Society offers and the process. They were a big help. It was just nice to have someone there who understood what I was going through.”

Jess also linked in with a Cancer Society psychologist and was referred to Dove House for support including Reiki, reflexology, support groups and mindfulness. Jess is now happily in remission and her prognosis is looking good. She even started a new job in January.

“Now I am in remission I am over the moon and really grateful. It really changed my perspective on life because I genuinely thought I only had a few years to live. It has made me a more positive person.”