Getting through radiation therapy with no worries: My bowel cancer experience

Nigel Wiggins / 24 Mar, 2022

Bowel cancer patient Nigel shares how Icon made his cancer treatment easy

I was completely shocked after my National Bowel Cancer Screening test kit came back with a positive result in December 2020. A colonoscopy the following week revealed that I had a tumour in my rectum.

How was this possible? I felt so well and had absolutely no symptoms! My family were shocked too because I was showing no signs of being ill.

However, through it all I kept thinking the same thing – no matter what, I can beat this.

My surgeon recommended a six week course of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. I wasn’t scared – my motto in life is there is nothing you can’t do. But I did have a logistical problem, living in Bega on the south coast of New South Wales where there is no local radiation oncology service. Icon Canberra was recommended, which was some 230 kms from my home.

My partner Johanna and I stayed positive and with the help of the team at Icon Canberra, we worked out a solution. Every Monday we would make the three hour drive to Canberra and return on Friday so I could spend the weekend back at home. Icon organised my motel accommodation and booked my appointments so that I could have a late appointment on Monday and an early one on Friday. All the staff were so caring, considerate and kind. It was beyond my expectations!

My tumour shrunk from a stage III to a stage I rectal cancer, so on 20 July 2021 I underwent a ten hour operation at Bega Hospital to have it removed and have a permanent stoma and bag put in. I was 74 years old when I went in for my operation and I came out on the day of my 75th birthday. My most difficult time was five days after the operation when I developed colitis, which I’d never had before and I have to tell you – it was bloody painful!

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My best Christmas present was to be told a week before Christmas that the removed lymph nodes were all negative, and to hear my oncologist joke that he didn’t want to see me again!

My life has NOT changed – I get to go to Tathra Beach which seems so much more beautiful now after the operation. I have a belt that fits to my stoma bag (thank you Coloplast) so I’m able to go straight into the ocean to catch a wave. I eat the same food and have a beer, but stay away from the beans (that causes a windy and noisy bag)!

My advice to anyone with cancer would be to stay positive about radiation therapy. Listen to the Icon staff and you won’t have a worry or problem.

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