I am 31 years old and happily married with two children (3 years and 18 months old) and another little boy on the way, due any time now. I'm an Australian Federal Police Officer currently attached to the Specialist Response and Security Tactical Response Team.
Bowel cancer was the last thing on my mind when I started to experience small amounts of rectal bleeding.
If I’m honest, I had been bleeding for up 12 months before doing anything about it, because it had only been small amounts of dark blood, which would come and go, which I put down to my training. It was when the bleeding gradually started to get worse – occurring daily and now with blood clots – that I told my GP.
My doctor sent me for some tests; I was told I had diverticulitis and that was it. I had to push for a colonoscopy, which I had on 25 May 2010. It revealed a tumour, and I was diagnosed with bowel cancer just two days later. I had more tests and was sent to Sydney from Canberra for a PET scan. Everything happened quite quickly from then on. I was given a porta-cath in mid-June and started chemotherapy (5-FU and Oxaliplatin) six days later, which wasn’t going too bad, until my porta-cath got infected and I was admitted to hospital. The plan was to do chemo every second week for three months, then chemo and radiation for six weeks before surgery but we’ll see how things go.
I am currently having chemo and radiation daily. I am using a tablet form of chemo, Xeloda (which unfortunately is not available on the PBS). This means I can vary the types of chemo, so I don’t have to have a pump attached to me, thus reducing the amounts of trips into hospital, giving me that little bit more freedom!
The AFP has been fantastic. My colleagues have been so supportive and my bosses are more than happy for me to come to work when I feel up to it, and not push my body too hard.
Being told I had bowel cancer nearly destroyed me at first, but now I feel like I have to help increase awareness of this terrible disease and get the message out there to the public. I'm hoping to speak to groups alongside Steve Bock (who recently climbed Mt Everest in 2010) and I will also be speaking at Canberra's 'Bachelor of the Year' competition to help raise awareness amongst young guys.
This experience has taught me an important lesson: cancer does not discriminate. It doesn't matter how BIG, STRONG, TOUGH or FIT you think you are - cancer can get you. Trust me: I'm young and pretty fit, and never would you have thought I could be a candidate for bowel cancer.
Please: if you have any changes in your bowel habits, or any other issues when you go to the toilet, make sure you get checked out by your doctor.
I hope my story can help others.