“Never ignore the warning signs” says Kat after being diagnosed with bowel cancer
Young doctor Kat Goodall was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer at just 33 years old while completing her surgical training.
This Bowel Cancer Awareness Month she has a strong message of don’t ignore the warning signs, to young people who may experience early symptoms of cancer.
In April 2018 while doing her general surgery training, Kat started experiencing bleeding from her bowel alongside changes in her bowel habits.
As a doctor she knew this was a red flag for bowel cancer and needed to be investigated, so she sought help from Colorectal Surgeon Dr Carina Chow at The Wesley Hospital who she had trained under as an intern.
“Dr Chow is such an amazing surgeon, I found her to be a phenomenal woman and an incredibly kind person, I wanted to see someone who I knew and trusted," Kat said.
“She booked me in for a colonoscopy straight away and I was told I had colorectal cancer when I woke up and they sent me for scans to see how far the cancer had progressed.
“On the 27 April I had a low anterior resection surgery to remove the cancer and it went really well, fortunately the cancer was not metastatic but it was in my lymph nodes so I did need to have chemotherapy."
Kat explains that before starting chemotherapy she was able to freeze her eggs as she knew she wanted to start a family.
“I then started chemotherapy doing 12 cycles which lasted six months, chemotherapy felt harder than passing my fellowship exams,” Kat said.
“The chemotherapy was brutal, it left me with neuropathy and hand foot syndrome which as a surgeon is really concerning as I need my hands functioning.
“I did acupuncture and saw and Occupational Therapist to try and avoid losing the use of my hands. I also took up cross stich which was great at keeping my hands moving.”
While undergoing treatment Kat continued to work thanks to her hospital creating a part-time role for her.
“My own stubbornness kept me going, I think it's a typical surgeon mentality, I pushed myself way to hard and seriously underestimated how exhausted chemotherapy would make me feel.”
Fortunately, after finishing chemotherapy Kat fell pregnant naturally and came back to The Wesley to have her baby girl, Mackenzie in June 2021.
She has also passed her Fellowship examination and is continuing to work in surgery.
“I know I have a very demanding job which requires so much time and energy, as a doctor it's easy to put yourself last, but I am so glad I listened to the warning signs of my body, Kat said.
“I have had genetic testing and I do not have a gene mutation so I know my cancer was an anomaly, that being said rates of bowel cancer are rising in people under 50.
“People need to be aware of the warning signs for cancer and make sure they get appropriate testing.”
Kat says never accept a warning sign or poor health as normal, if something doesn't feel right, have it checked or get a second opinion till you're satisfied it has been thoroughly investigated.
“I would like to see more cancer support services available for people aged between 25 to 50, this age gap seems to be missed,” Kat said.
“We are balancing careers, young families and don't have access to large amounts of superannuation or long service leave, it’s such a struggle.
“There is also a shortage of dedicated bowel cancer nurses in the community, this is an extremely important and valuable role, I would love to see more of them.”
Kat is now looking forward to celebrating her daughters 2nd birthday and making her a dinosaur cake.
“I have a wonderful family, and I am so lucky that I have such an amazing supportive partner who never left my side, he is also doing his medical training but he took time off work to support me during my treatment and while I completed my surgical training.”