Lindsay, I had zero symptoms until after eating some really greasy fries at a mom and pop bbq place. I had diarrhea so took Imodium and that caused a blockage at the 2 cm tumor up above my belly button. I had no idea what was going on .... for a month. That greasy food saved my life!
I had NEVER been sick in my life. A cold every 8 or 9 years maybe. No PMS. No headaches. Nothing.
Over the next month, I felt bloated, had bowel sounds you could hear 10 feet away, if I didn't eat for a few days, it would feel better but then I'd eat and it would start all over. At the end of the month, I was totally unable to pass gas or anything. I started to vomit up food that I'd eaten two days earlier, undigested. My husband got me an emergency gastro visit on New Year's Eve 2008. The doctor knew what it was right away but sent me for a colonoscopy on Jan. 2nd. I had 18 inches of my colon and 17 lymph nodes removed on Jan. 7, 2009 (5 years ago) and 5 out of 17 lymph nodes had microscopic cancer cells. I did 6 months of chemo (never threw up, never lost my hair). My stats were 80% chance of being alive at 3 years and 68 % chance of being alive at 5 years.
I was dx'd Stage IIIB and am now Stage IVa because of the single small met that appeared much later. That means my Stage IV is NOT the same as someone who is very ill at diagnosis or who has a recurrence in the first year or so.
All clear for 3 years but in Feb. 2012 they saw a tiny spot (1.5 cm so smaller than a dime) on my liver. I had a PET/ CT scan and only the very center lit up. In April 2012 they removed 80% of my liver. Painful recovery.... but my liver grew back. I did have 27 staples and a little collection pump type drain on my side for a few weeks. Doctor had gone out of state to do a special surgery so my appt. was put off. The pump just drained any fluid build up around where the liver was healing. Looked like apple juice.
I've been having PET/ CT scans and blood work at first every 3 months and am now at 6 months. Everything from the top of my head to mid thighs has been perfect so far with good blood work. My NEW stats are: 80% 3-year survival rate and a 71% 5-year survival rate after HR (liver resection) and well-established data showing 10- and 20-year survivors after HR of solitary and multiple metastases, even without adjuvant chemotherapy. Those stats don't mean 'cancer free', but alive at 3 and 5 years. April will be 2 years since my liver resection.
I never had to have a 'bag'. The original surgery was a lap surgery with only a tiny cut and 42 hours in the hospital from surgery to check-out. For the liver resection, I was there 5 days but it took over a month for me to be able to dress myself or wash my own hair (lifting arms over head). They used a rib spreader to get to my organs and check out all my innards.
So, after the liver resection I became a horrible hypochondriac.