David B's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 65, NSW)

I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 1993 at the age of 47.  I had taken a Rotary Bowelscan test (FOBT) and, when it returned a positive result in May, my GP referred me to a specialist.  I was given a colonoscopy in June and told I had a 10 per cent chance of having cancer… turns out, I was in that unlucky 10 per cent!  In July I had a bowel resection.  Looking back, it all happened so quickly.

I felt I coped really well with the cancer at the time but I experienced more problems about seven years later.  I suffered depression and was forced into medical retirement due to poor bowel control, all of which coincided with my father’s death.  I think I just bottled up all my emotions, and it wasn’t until I finally saw my GP that I was encouraged to talk about my experiences.

Prescription medication helped me to manage my depression.

My lifestyle has definitely changed since my diagnosis.  I have reduced my red meat consumption (especially well cooked red meat) and increased the amount of vegetables I eat.  I also try to avoid nuts and nut products, and I gave up smoking as soon as I was diagnosed.

I was very lucky that my bowel cancer was detected so early because I had absolutely no symptoms and no family history of the disease.  I now have a colonoscopy every five years to make sure I stay cancer-free.

My wife and I help run a Bowelscan stall every year, which is my way of giving something back.  I hope we’re helping to raise awareness in people who may be affected by bowel cancer without even realising it.  The advice I give to others is this: it doesn’t matter how old you are or whether you have any symptoms.  Take regular screening tests.  Don’t wait!

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