HomeLifestyleParamedic, 33, called coworkers after pushing through hours of pain
Paramedic, 33, called coworkers after pushing through hours of pain
My crippling pain was worse than childbirth but doctors still brushed me off. This is my warning to other young Aussies about an unthinkable disease that could’ve killed me
Lucy Hardy reveals how she was diagnosed with cancer
READ MORE: I was young and fit – but I had stage four bowel cancer
It was well past midnight when paramedic mum-of-two Lucy Hardy realised she was in serious trouble and would need to call her colleagues for help.
The 33-year-old, from Tasmania, had been pushing through crippling gut pain she describes as ‘worse than childbirth’ for hours.
She sat naked on the toilet, soaked in sweat between violent vomiting episodes and looked at her roster to see which one of her co-workers would be finding her in such a vulnerable position.
Months later, she would be diagnosed with bowel cancer – the cause of the painful episode – after doctors continuously brushed her off.
Speaking to FEMAIL, Lucy has revealed how her condition was misdiagnosed that night, and says she had to push doctors for months to investigate ‘properly’.
Lucy Hardy, 33, pictured in the weeks before she was diagnosed with bowel cancer
‘I got to hospital and they did a CT and told me I had a bowel obstruction,’ she recalled.
The surgical team was called to ‘go in and have a look’ and took out her healthy appendix as a precaution.
Everything else ‘looked good’, so Lucy went home with the diagnosis of ‘undiagnosed abdominal pain’.
‘I thought it was a bit odd, but thought these guys know what they are doing,’ she said.
When Lucy got home she was having horrific pain ‘in the gallbladder region’.
‘Doctors said my inflammation markers were high and told me if it gets worse they will look into it,’ she said, adding that the pain died down and she wasn’t worried until she noticed blood in the toilet.
The mum-of-two has always been healthy and used to helping others in life-threatening situations – then she experienced the other side of the service
‘I took photos and sent them to my mum, who is a nurse, and she agreed I needed to go back to my doctor,’ she said.
As a result, Lucy had to give her GP stool samples from three consecutive days; lab results showed they all contained blood.
The Tasmanian mum was put on the ‘urgent’ colonoscopy list – a three-month wait – and when she finally got in, she told the surgeon she was afraid it was cancer.
‘He told me not to worry and that I would only see him after surgery if he was worried,’ she said. ‘He popped into the room quickly but didn’t speak to me so I assumed it was fine.’
Then, a few days later, her GP called.
Pictured here with her miner husband, Daniel, the young mum was scared she was going to die when she was told she had cancer
The surgeon had removed a polyp and results weren’t good.
‘My brain went straight to, “Am I going to die?”‘ she said.
Lucy burst into tears as the doctor explained he would do more tests to make sure the disease hadn’t spread.
‘The results came back and everything ‘looked good’, so they sent me for another colonoscopy.
‘When those results came back fine the doctor said he would see me in a year. I was super confused. I had just been given a cancer diagnosis and then told to “see you in a year”,’ she said.
She got a second opinion – and the doctor suggested she have the nearby lymph nodes removed in case the cancer had travelled there but was too small to be detected.
She had the segment of bowel with the tumour taken out – as well as the associated lymph nodes – to make sure the cancer doesn’t come back or hadn’t spread
She also had a nine-centimetre section of bowel removed, to reduce the risk of the disease coming back at all.
‘I woke up with an ostomy bag – something I really didn’t want as a 33-year-old – but it is only temporary. And I am healing so well doctors let me leave the hospital early and have let me drive,’ she said.
These surgeries weren’t covered by Medicare – and neither will the follow-up surgery to reconnect her bowel so she can ditch the medical accessory.
‘We had private health cover but it didn’t cover the surgery and because of that it also didn’t cover my hospital stay,’ she said.
Lucy hid her cancer diagnosis from her children, and only told friends and colleagues when she realised she would be needing surgery and to take time off.
When she did tell friends, they set up a Go Fund Me, which is now closed, to help pay up to $30,000 worth of out-of-pocket medical expenses.
She will continue to hide the diagnosis from her kids.
‘My son is too young to understand and my daughter is sensitive; I wanted to protect her,’ she said.
Lucy improved so quickly in hospital she was able to leave early and recover at home. She is now cancer free, but has to be checked every year
She is pleased now that ‘the thing’ is ‘out of her body’ and plans on telling her kids later, when they are old enough to process the information.
‘I told them I was sick and had to see a doctor to make me better. My daughter knows about cancer and I didn’t want her to think I was going to die,’ she said.
‘But they are higher risk now, so I will tell them as they will need to get yearly colonoscopies once they are adults.’
Lucy said it was confronting going from being the person helping to the one calling the ambulance.
‘I love what I do, I don’t want anyone to be sick enough to call an ambulance but I do love seeing the look of relief on their faces when we arrive to help,’ she said.
Now she knows what patients are feeling first hand.
Lucy wants other people to advocate for their health and realise young people get these cancers too. She says if she hadn’t caught hers so quickly her story could have been devastating
‘I am not one to call an ambulance, but the pain was horrific, worse than labour. I knew the crew who were on and they were amazing,’ she said.
Lucy says she was able to understand what was going on and be more vigilant, looking for follow-up symptoms, after that night on the toilet.
She wants other people who are sent home with painkillers to advocate for themselves and keep showing up to the GP if they think something’s not right.
She also wants people to know that it is okay to get more than one opinion about treatment after a diagnosis.