Anis' bowel cancer story (father diagnosed age 72, NSW)

This story is about my father who was diagnosed with bowel cancer three days before Christmas in 2010 and passed away just five weeks later.

Dad was a young 72-year-old – he was healthy and active, ate well, enjoyed long walks, wouldn’t hesitate to climb up on the roof if necessary, and had never even been to hospital – so his diagnosis was a shock. He had lost his appetite and begun to lose weight about a month before his diagnosis but his doctor didn’t think it was a problem; in fact, he thought it was good that he was losing weight, even though Dad wasn’t a big man. The GP had no idea. 

A month later, Dad went back to the doctor after a night out with yellowing skin, numbness in his fingers and shivering. He was given blood tests and an ultrasound on his liver, and was told he had liver cancer that had spread from his bowel.

Dad was given one course of chemo but his condition deteriorated very quickly and got to the stage where he could no longer even move. We were told that Dad’s liver was failing and that there was no cure. The specialist said it might have been curable if it had been detected earlier.

Dad’s death was a tragedy that affected our entire family. We love him and miss him terribly. I think about Dad and his final weeks every day. It came as a complete shock that this could happen to someone so seemingly healthy and strong. If only Dad had been sent a bowel cancer screening test like so many others. I regret not pushing him to take the test or have the colonoscopy that might have saved his life.

Since Dad’s death, my father-in-law decided to take an FOBT test and discovered that he has bowel cancer, too. Luckily, it is still in its early stages and can simply be removed. So my father’s death has helped save at least one life, and I hope that sharing his experience will raise awareness of this silent killer, and help to save even more lives. Our whole family has been tested now.

I didn’t know much about bowel cancer before Dad died. I always thought that you could tell if you had it by checking for blood in your stool. I’ve since learned that not everyone with bowel cancer – Dad included – displays symptoms. I would encourage everyone to get tested early. Don’t wait until you see the signs, because it might just be too late. 

Bernadette, in loving memory of her father.


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