New Zealand fitness guru’s shock diagnosis following routine blood test

New Zealand fitness guru Rachael Ferguson had just tied the knot with her hubby in November last year when she visited her GP following the results of a routine blood test.

The 32-year-old self-described “gym bunny” was also there to talk to her doctor about switching medications for a pre-existing, blood clotting condition.

As she and her partner Glen, 40, were planning on starting a family, the blood thinners she was on were believed to be unsafe for pregnancy.

However, during her visit, tests results from a previous blood test revealed she was severely anaemic.

“My GP asked if I had been bleeding and all of a sudden I remembered that over the past few months I had drops of blood in my stool, but it wasn’t enough for me to be concerned,” Ferguson told news.com.au.

As a precaution, Ferguson, a preschool teacher from Tauranga, was referred to get scans and have a flexible sigmoidoscopy that examines the lower section of the colon.

To her shock, she was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer after the procedure showed she had a tumour on her rectum and also on her liver.

“It felt so surreal because I never felt sick and was thinking ‘what are you talking about, this doesn’t make sense’,” she told news.com.au.

She was experiencing bloating and dizziness, which are signs of bowel cancer, however she put it down the stress of having rescheduled her wedding for a second time due to the pandemic.

“The doctor who was doing the procedure knew straight away it didn’t look good and told me then and there about my condition.”

Ferguson, who trains up to six times a week and competed in a bodybuilding competition in 2018, said it’s suggested that the types of food you eat also play a part.

“But I eat a really clean diet – a well-balanced diet with a good amount of meat, greens and fruit,” she explained.

Ferguson knew she had a tough journey ahead, and instead of trying for a baby following her wedding, she underwent surgery on February 26.

To her absolute happiness and relief, surgeons were able to remove all traces of cancer.

She is currently almost halfway through 12 rounds of chemotherapy to make sure there’s no possible cells that can grow into cancer.

“They call them micro cells that can’t be seen or detected,” Ferguson said.

“Everything is looking very positive, but when you hear ‘stage 4’ you think the worst possible case.

“There are positive outcomes out there and I am certainly one of them.”

The couple will try for a baby six months after Ferguson completes chemo.

“Ideally they want you to wait two years, not because of the chemo but because of follow-up testing but in six months it will be safe.”

She said her husband Glen has been her “rock” throughout the entire process as she tries to remain as positive as possible.

“The challenging part has been the unknown and waiting around for the test results but I am trying to keep a clear headspace and because I have such a positive mindset it’s helped Glen too.”

“But if I need him to be my sponge, he is always there for me. He is amazing.”

Ferguson said if it wasn’t for her doctor taking extra precautionary steps, things could have looked very different, advising others to also push for extra testing if they notice something different about their bodies.

“Before this happened I would have never known the signs to look for which can be a change in bowel habits, the shape of your stool, bloating frequently, having a sore tummy or fatigue for no reason,” the proud ambassador for Bowel Cancer NZ said.

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“It’s really important that being a health and fitness conscious person to not only focus on that aspect but take the time to sit alone with your body.

“Our bodies are really remarkable at telling us something is wrong. Living such a fast-paced life for me I missed some signs, but my advice is just to listen to your body and trust your gut.”

Ferguson, who documents her journey on Instagram and uses the platform to raise awareness about bowel cancer, said it’s also important to be persistent.

“Don’t be afraid to tell your doctor (if) something doesn’t feel right and you want to push for testing because we can’t be told ‘no’ when it comes to our health.”

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