It was well after midnight when mum-of-two Lucy Hardy realized she was in big trouble and would have to call her colleagues for help.
The 33-year-old from Tasmania had been suffering for hours from debilitating intestinal pain which she described as “worse than childbirth”.
She sat naked on the toilet, drenched in sweat between violent bouts of vomiting, and looked at her list to see which of her colleagues would find her in such a vulnerable position.
Months later, she would be diagnosed with bowel cancer – the cause of the painful episode – after doctors continually ruled it out.
Speaking to FEMAIL, Lucy revealed how her condition was misdiagnosed that night and said she had to push doctors for months to investigate “properly”.
Lucy Hardy, 33, pictured in the weeks before her bowel cancer diagnosis
“I got to the hospital and they did a scan and told me I had a bowel obstruction,” she recalls.
The surgical team was called to “come in and see” and removed his healthy appendix as a precaution.
Everything else “looked good,” so Lucy went home with a diagnosis of “undiagnosed abdominal pain.”
“I thought it was a little strange, but I thought these guys knew what they were doing,” she said.
When Lucy came home, she was suffering from horrible pain “in the gallbladder area.”
“The doctors said my inflammation markers were high and told me if it got worse they would look into it,” she said, adding that the pain had subsided and she wasn’t worried until she noticed blood in the toilet.
The mother of two has always been healthy and used to helping others in situations where her life was in danger. She then discovered the other side of the service.
“I took pictures and sent them to my mother, who is a nurse, and she agreed that 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 mother was put on the “urgent” colonoscopy list – a three-month wait – and when she finally arrived she told the surgeon she was afraid it was cancer.
“He told me not to worry and that I would only see him after the operation if he was worried,” she said. “He came into the room quickly but didn’t speak to me, so I assumed everything was fine.”
Then, a few days later, his GP called him.
Pictured here with her miner husband, Daniel, the young mother was afraid she would die when she was told she had cancer.
The surgeon had removed a polyp and the results were not good.
“My brain immediately went, ‘Am I going to die?'” she said.
Lucy burst into tears when the doctor explained that 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, the doctor said he would see me in a year. I was super confused. I had just been diagnosed with cancer and was then told to “see you in a year,” she said.
She got a second opinion – and the doctor suggested she have nearby lymph nodes removed in case the cancer had spread there but was too small to detect.
She had the segment of intestine containing the tumor — along with associated lymph nodes — removed to ensure the cancer would not return or spread.
He also had a nine-centimeter section of his intestine removed, to reduce the risk of the disease recurring.
“I woke up with an ostomy bag – something I really didn’t want at 33 – but it’s only temporary. And I’m healing so well that the doctors let me leave the hospital early and let me drive,” she said.
Those surgeries weren’t covered by Medicare — and neither will the follow-up surgery to reconnect her intestine so she can ditch the medical aid.
“We had private health cover, but it didn’t cover the operation and as such it didn’t cover my hospital stay either,” she said.
Lucy hid her cancer diagnosis from her children and only told friends and colleagues when she realized she would need surgery and would be taking time off work.
When she told friends, they started a Go Fund Me, which is now closed, to help pay up to $30,000 in direct medical expenses.
She will continue to hide the diagnosis from her children.
“My son is too young to understand and my daughter is sensitive; I wanted to protect her,” she said.
Lucy improved so quickly in the hospital that she was able to leave early and recover at home. She no longer has cancer, but needs to be checked every year.
She is happy now that “the thing” is “out of her body” and plans to tell her children about it later, when they are old enough to process the information.
“I told them I was sick and needed to see a doctor to get better. My daughter knows about the cancer and I didn’t want her to think I was going to die,” she said.
“But they are at higher risk now, so I will tell them because they will have to have annual colonoscopies as adults.”
Lucy said it was difficult to go from being the person who helped to the one who called the ambulance.
“I love what I do, I don’t want anyone to be sick enough to call an ambulance, but I love seeing the relief on their faces when we arrive to help them,” she said.
She now knows directly what patients feel.
Lucy wants other people to stand up for their health and realize that young people get these cancers too. She says if she hadn’t figured out hers so quickly, her story could have been devastating.
“I’m not one to call an ambulance, but the pain was horrible, worse than childbirth.” I knew the team that was there and they were amazing,” she said.
Lucy says she was able to figure out what was happening and be more vigilant, looking for follow-up symptoms, after that night on the toilet.
She wants other people sent home with painkillers to stand up for themselves and continue to attend their GP if they think something is wrong.
She also wants people to know that it’s okay to have more than one opinion about treatment after a diagnosis.