Young mum tells of unexpected journey

CATE BROUGHTON
Last updated 05:00 03/09/2014
Natalie Reynolds with her daughter Isobel Strong and partner Pete Strong
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ENJOYING FAMILY: Natalie Reynolds with her daughter Isobel Strong and partner Pete Strong.

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At times, it could be any other young parent's blog.

Natalie Reynolds writes about beautiful moments with her 15-month-old daughter, Isobel.

"I took advantage of doing everything with Isobel tonight, we played and read stories, then I gave her a bath - that kid loves the water," one entry reads.

She writes about lying in bed with her as she goes to sleep, singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, playing with her at bath time and getting those priceless, unexpected cuddles.

But the blog is not about parenting, it is about a brutal disease - a very unexpected journey Reynolds is taking after a late diagnosis of bowel cancer.

The 26-year-old Dunedin mother had her entire bowel removed in June and is now fighting liver cancer.

She wants to tell her story publicly to help others avoid her fate.

"I just wanted to open people's eyes and let them see that if they don't look after themselves and trust themselves and their body then this is a situation they could end up in - and this is a situation that no one should end up in."

Despite suffering from rectal bleeding for five years, Reynolds said she was not referred for a diagnostic colonoscopy until the symptoms intensified at the end of last year.

She was treated for haemorrhoids but the bleeding continued.

"Everyone kept repeating to me, ‘You are so young'. I feel that because of my age they just glanced over bowel cancer and moved on thinking it might have been something else."

In November, she was put on an emergency list for a colonoscopy but it took another four to five months before she finally had the procedure.

When a doctor told her she had bowel cancer in May, it was a huge shock.

"I never ever considered cancer, it did not play on my mind whatsoever," Reynolds said.

Doctors found Reynolds had developed the condition, Serrated Polyps Syndrome (SPS), in which multiple polyps develop in the large bowel. One of more than 20 polyps had become cancerous.

Soon after her diagnosis, other family members shared that they too had the genetic syndrome.

"People don't like talking about bums and poo and bowels so it ends up with people keeping those things quiet, and it's dangerous."

Still recovering from the massive operation to remove her bowel, Reynolds was dealt another blow last month.

A scan revealed four tumours in her liver.

She is now midway through her first month of chemotherapy treatment in a bid to shrink the tumours before another surgery.

Despite her dire predicament, the young mum is trying to take a positive approach. "I've decided that I'm going to enjoy everything about my family and my friends now, in case. It's just really made me appreciate everything so much more."

Southern District Health Board executive director of patient services Lexie O'Shea said the DHB could not comment on individual cases.

Reynolds' blog is The Fight of My Life, at natsbigfight.tumblr.com/.

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