“It’s an unusual birthday present, but it is probably the best gift I have received.”
Ian, a retired merchant seaman, never thought the simple act of emptying his post box would ultimately save his life.
At 65, Ian, like many Australians, was unaware the risk of developing bowel cancer increased with age. He was physically fit and believed he was in good health. As an active fisherman determined to make the most of his retirement, bowel cancer was the last thing on Ian’s mind.
What Ian didn’t realise was that the free screening test he received in the mail would expose a potentially life-threatening disease. “It is an unusual birthday present to get in the mail, but in hindsight it is probably the best gift I have received,” he said.
To Ian, the greatest surprise was learning that, despite having no obvious symptoms, he was on the verge of developing bowel cancer.
“My biggest priority each day was finding out where the fish were biting. Now, thanks to me having the commonsense to take the test, I have a clean bill of health and I can continue living life the way I want to. I can still go fishing each morning, play cards with my mates and enjoy a cold beer at the end of the day,” he said.
Like most men, Ian was not the type of person to rush off to the doctor for just any old reason. “When the kit arrived in the mail I opened it and read through the instructions. It was all pretty straight forward so I decided why not, taking the test won’t hurt me and finding out if something is wrong could potentially save me,” he said.
“I followed the instructions and sent my samples back to be tested. I have to say, I was a bit surprised when I heard back from the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program Queensland. They said I needed to talk to my doctor about my positive result.”
Ian travelled to Cairns for a colonoscopy. Doctors discovered nine polyps (tiny growths inside the colon and rectum). Cancerous cells had already started to develop in one of the polyps removed during the colonoscopy.
Ian said if he hadn’t received the kit who knows what could have happened to him. “The couple of days out of my normal routine to get to Cairns and have everything taken care of were nothing when compared to what could have been if I ignored the test kit,” he added.
“I keep telling my mates to stop messing around and do the test when it arrives in the mail. They keep telling me that they are too embarrassed to do it. I honestly can’t see what there is to be embarrassed about. It’s quick, clean and as far from embarrassing as you can get as you do the test at home.”
Ian’s message to people is to do the test when it arrives as “You don’t need to feel sick for there to be something wrong.”