First time mum diagnosed with cancer after experiencing hematochezia

Bowel cancer: Dr Hilary outlines the main symptoms

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When 37-year-old Jennaca Russ started experiencing hematochezia – blood in her stools – as well as anaemia she was assured by doctors this was caused by her pregnancy. But the nurse knew something was wrong and booked a colonoscopy. This later revealed she actually had bowel cancer, also known as colon cancer.

After giving birth to her first child August in October last year, Jennaca’s symptoms stopped.

Despite the fact the symptoms had gone away, Jennaca’s mum urged her to attend the colonoscopy she had booked previously.

Following this appointment she was given the heartbreaking news she had bowel cancer and was told she had a 10 percent chance of survival.

Jennaca from Oklahoma City, in the US, said: “It was a pretty dark day for us, I got the news two or three days before Thanksgiving.

“Initially they thought I would be stage one or two but the next day I had a CT where we found out it had spread to my liver.

“Going into the holidays I thought it would be my last with my family but it was also the first one for my baby.”

Jennaca fell pregnant with August in January after a long battle with infertility.

It was during her second trimester when she started experiencing blood in her stool but was told by doctors it was caused by internal haemorrhoids – lumps inside and around your bottom.

“I had a gut feeling it was something more than that,” Jennaca said. “I contacted my doctors throughout my whole pregnancy and they said wait until the baby has been born.

“As my pregnancy went on I kept getting concerned about the bleeding and I reached out to a doctor and was put in for a colonoscopy.”

Following her initial diagnosis Jennaca was told that the cancer had spread to her liver and she was given a year to live.

Jennaca said: “It was devastating, speaking to my doctor and he told me I had a year to live.

“After Thanksgiving, I had an appointment with an oncologist who changed my prognosis. He said I have years but it will be a long fight as the survival rate is poor.

“I have a 10 percent chance that I will live for five years.”

Since then she sought treatment from the MD Anderson Cancer Centre in Texas.

“The doctors there said that my cancer is surgical and they believe they can remove my liver tumours,” she said. “I have my colon cancer surgery at the end of February, they said the cure rate is about 40 percent which is light years ahead of what I was told before.”

Since her diagnosis Jennaca has had four rounds of chemotherapy to help shrink the tumours before the operation.

Now, she is urging others to be aware of the symptoms and make sure they keep seeking the medical help they need.

She said: “I want people to be aware to advocate for themselves, colon cancer in younger people is rising dramatically. Since I have been talking about my story I have found a lot of people in the same situation as me.”

Jennaca lost her job as a nurse due to her illness and a GoFundMe page was set up to help pay for her cancer treatments, which can be found at

The most common signs of bowel cancer are:

  • A persistent change in bowel habit
  • Blood in the poo without other symptoms of piles (haemorrhoids)
  • Abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating always brought on by eating.

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