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A 37-year-old woman has revealed her abdominal pain and frequent bathroom visits were actually signs of a horror disease.

A 37-year-old woman has revealed her abdominal pain and frequent bathroom visits were actually signs of bowel cancer.

Elise Stapleton’s family are no strangers to the disease with the Victorian woman’s aunt being diagnosed in 2021.

Her sister Lana, who is two years her senior, has also been diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer.

“At that point, a specialist said that we should be screened because there is a family history,” Elise told news.com.au.

So, Elise and her siblings each had a colonoscopy. Her test results came back clear.

But, a year later she felt exhausted, she began experiencing sporadic pain on the left hand side of her abdomen and diarrhoea.

Elise Stapleton’s family are no strangers to bowel cancer. Picture: Supplied

Elise Stapleton’s family are no strangers to bowel cancer. Picture: Supplied

However Elise had been diagnosed with endometriosis at 25 and she said the symptoms were similar.

“I was putting them down to my endometriosis symptoms. I obviously knew what bowel cancer symptoms were after my sister got a diagnosis so young,” she said.

“So I was pretty in touch with my body.”

Her symptoms got progressively worse and so she saw her gynaecologist, who looked at Elise’s family history and her endometriosis journey, and ordered an pelvic ultrasound.

The test revealed there was a lesion on her bowel and so the doctor ordered an MRI and CT scan to examine it further.

Elise started experiencing symptoms a year after her sister was diagnosed. Picture: Supplied

Elise started experiencing symptoms a year after her sister was diagnosed. Picture: Supplied

“At that point, I was a little bit worried because everything happened so quickly,” Elise said.

But the tests revealed there was no cause for suspicion and her symptoms were likely related to her endometriosis, however that needed to be confirmed with surgery.

The surgery was booked for early December as Elise was planning to embark on a solo IVF journey the following year. However Covid delayed it until the end of January. She was set to have the removal of endometriosis plus, if necessary, a bowel resection. She thought she’d just be spending a night or two in hospital.

When she woke up, two nurses were standing at the edge of her bed. They told her the surgery hadn’t gone as planned. They’d found a tumour and they were certain it was bowel cancer.

“I was still in recovery, I was on my own with no friends or family. I just screamed,” Elise said.

“I just wanted my mum.”

She was also diagnosed with bowel cancer. Picture: Supplied

She was also diagnosed with bowel cancer. Picture: Supplied

She has since been given the all clear. Picture: Supplied

She has since been given the all clear. Picture: Supplied

Her sister rushed to be by her side and Elise spent a week in hospital before having another two weeks at home in what she describes as the “longest three weeks of her life”.

Elise then had a second surgery to remove the tumour, parts of her bowel and lymph nodes. The cancer – which was also stage three – had spread to her lymph nodes and she required six rounds of chemotherapy over three months.

Elise had her first scan in September and was told there was no signs of the cancer, with her second follow up scan next week.

Her sister, Lana, was also told she had no more signs of the cancer.

However, during the hardest year of her life there was also a budding romance story. Just before her surgery in January Elise met Kieran. The pair had been on one date before she discovered her diagnosis and she was convinced he was going to run for the hills.

“He did the polar opposite and hung around and we got to know each other a lot,” she said, even revealing he surprised her by turning up with her mum to her first chemotherapy treatment. The pair got engaged at the end of last year as Kieran wanted them to finish the year on a high.

Elise got engaged to Kieran at the end of 2023. Picture: Supplied

Elise got engaged to Kieran at the end of 2023. Picture: Supplied

Now, Elise is doing everything she can to raise awareness of the disease and has become an advocate for Bowel Cancer Australia.

Bowel cancer is Australia’s second deadliest disease with 299 people being diagnosed each week. Eleven per cent of those are people under 50 and early onset rates are rising.

“To be honest, I thought it was an older person’s disease because my aunty who passed was 70,” she said.

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